Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) already proved he didn’t have the political surefootedness to keep his job as House speaker. On Sunday, he revealed to the world that he also lacks the basic knowledge to beat an average high schooler in a history classroom.
In a breathtaking instance of inaccuracy, the tuxedo-garbed congressman took to the stage at a recent event to proclaim that “in every single war that America has fought, we have never asked for land afterwards.”
He then added a caveat, also wrong: “Except enough to bury the Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for that freedom we went in for.”
Apparently galvanized by the hearty applause he received from the audience in the room, McCarthy seemed to feel secure enough to post a clip of the moment to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “Think for one moment,” he captioned it, in part.
Users on the platform did him one better. A community note was quickly added to the bottom of the tweet, clarifying that the U.S. had in fact triumphantly snatched land from a country it had beaten in battle. The note used the example of the Mexican-American War, which ended in 1848 after Mexico acceded to grant “a vast portion of the Southwest” to the United States.
That sprawling slab of land was 55 percent of Mexico’s territory and measured roughly 529,000 square miles. It has since become the states we call Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, California—including McCarthy’s own district—as well as most of Arizona and Colorado, and chunks of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming.
“New cry of freedom: Forget the Alamo!” tweeted Tim O’Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion.
“Think of all the wisdom from this man we’d be deprived of if his home state of California had never spontaneously risen from the sea and attached itself to the United States,” wrote George Conway, the D.C. lawyer who announced his separation from wife Kellyanne Conway earlier this year.
But that’s not the only example the congressman might have learned of had he only bothered to crack open a history textbook. Several users pointed out that the American government gained Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines as territories after winning the Spanish-American War of 1898. The next year, the U.S. took control of American Samoa after the Second Samoan Civil War.
And as a MSNBC opinion writer pointed out on Monday, “the U.S. government pursued policies of militant ethnic cleansing of Native Americans to expand its borders through the 19th century.”
Another significant acquisition even more up McCarthy’s patriotic lane? The aftermath of the Revolutionary War, wherein Britain ceded a tract of land that included much of what was east of the Mississippi River and most of what became the Upper Midwest.
“If you don’t even know how your home state became a state you should have ZERO say in how teachers teach history,” tweeted gun control activist David Hogg. “Let alone be a member of Congress.”
It’s said that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. McCarthy may not necessarily be in such a doom spiral right now, but demonstrating he wouldn’t stand a chance as a contestant on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? certainly won’t help prove otherwise.