Congressman Steve King Reflects on Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King"

Congressman Steve King (TP-Iowa) is making quite a name for himself.


Yesterday, all hell broke loose on Capitol Hill as House Republicans announced that they had met secretly to gut the independent Congressional Ethics Office, only to be forced by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy immediately to walk back on what they had just done, when switchboards on Capitol Hill erupted in such a display of fireworks as is seen only in Fourth of July celebrations, after angry constituents denounced their secret action, especially after president-elect Donald Trump had campaigned on a promise of “draining the swamp in Washington."


But Congressman King, always a publicity hound, promptly appeared on national television telling reporters that he stands firmly on the side of those supporting the effort to delegitimize the Congressional Ethics Office by depriving it of the ability to respond to anonymous complaints of unethical conduct. Under King’s proposal, the Congressional Ethics Office would be subordinated to the House Ethics Committee, which would be free to impose its partisan will.


King appeared in a panel discussion on MSNBC last July and made an interesting comment about “white civilization.” Referring to Western civilization as white, King said, “the Western civilization and the American civilization are a superior culture.”


King opposes affirmative action. In 2009, King said “There’s been legislation that’s been brought through this House that sets aside benefits for women and minorities. The only people that it excludes are white men… pretty soon, white men are going to notice they are the ones being excluded."


All this prompted your solitary reporter and associate solitary reporter Maggie Smith, who covers Congress for us, to reread Rudyard Kipling’s famous 1888 novella, “The Man Who Would Be King,” a tall tale about two crazed, rogue British soldiers in India, at the height of British colonialism, who brazenly cross into a very remote part of present-day Afghanistan to intimidate the “uncivilized barbarians” into thinking that they are gods, only to meet their deaths at the hands of the locals. The Man Who Would Be King, a spectacular, vastly entertaining 1975 John Huston film adapted from the novella, stars Sean Connery as Daniel Dravot and Michael Caine as Peachy Carnahan. In the novella and in the movie, Dravot is forced onto a footbridge from which he plunges to his death; Carnahan is crucified but survives long enough to tell his tale, and in the novella, Carnahan dies shortly afterward of sunstroke.


So associate solitary reporter Smith accosted King in his office, where he proudly displays the Confederate flag on his desk, and rudely asked him whether, by defying the will of the fervent Drain the Swamp Trump voters, he is risking the fate of Carnahan in Kipling’s fable.


“Rudyard who?” King demanded. “Never heard of him, but Kipling Street in suburban Denver is a major thoroughfare that I often traveled while campaigning for my close personal friend Ted Cruz for president, and Ted won the Republican caucus in Colorado in March, with Trump getting exactly zero delegates.”


Smith then patiently explained the plot of The Man Who Would Be King to King, whose only friends in Congress are Republicans whose favorite sport is to torment their leadership.


“As a staunch Christian,” King said, “I stand ready to be crucified, like Peachy Carnahan, for protecting Congressmen who consider themselves to be gods who have immunity from being sanctioned in any way.”


House Majority Leader McCarthy, encouraged by Speaker Paul Ryan, promptly launched efforts to recruit a sensible Republican to run against King in the 2018 GOP primary in Iowa.


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