Tag Archives: Mitch McConnell

All The “King’s” Men (And Women)

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank has been on a roll since the election of Donald Trump. It’s understandable–Trump provides a target for anyone who takes policy seriously, and an even bigger target for people who are tempted to berate pompous ignoramuses and moral cowards.

Milbank detests both categories.

In the linked column, he points to the obvious: the moral rot that Trump has brought with him to the political process has spread throughout the Republican Party. As he notes, what the President is doing is reprehensible; what the GOP leadership is not doing is unforgivable.(“Unforgivable” is actually my “pet name” for Mitch McConnell. At least, it’s the “pet name” I can use in polite company.)

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) stood on the Senate floor Wednesday morning for his first public remarks since the seismic events of the day before: The president’s former personal lawyer pleaded guilty to fraud and breaking campaign finance laws, implicating the president in a crime; the president’s former campaign chairman was convicted on eight counts of financial crimes, making him one of five members of Trump’s team who have been convicted or have admitted guilt; and a Republican congressman was indicted, the second of Trump’s earliest congressional supporters to be charged this month.

It was time for leadership. McConnell ducked.

Instead, he hailed Trump’s campaign rally in West Virginia the night before. He disparaged President Barack Obama’s record. He spoke about low unemployment “under this united Republican government.” He went on about coal, taxes, apprenticeship programs, health research, prisoner rehabilitation and more — and not a peep about the corruption swirling around the president. When reporters pressed McConnell in the hallway for comment, he brushed them off.

Paul Ryan didn’t come off any better. Milbank quoted Ryan saying he “needed more information.”

What more do you need, Mr. Speaker? What more will it take, Republicans? It seems nothing can bring them to state what is manifestly true: The president is unfit to serve, surrounded by hooligans and doing incalculable harm.

Milbank recounted the equally shameful silence of others in the GOP hierarchy, then wrote what most rational Americans–including those who once called the Grand Old Party home– are thinking:

This intolerable silence of the Republicans — through “Access Hollywood,” racist outbursts, diplomatic mayhem and endless scandal — is what allows Trump and his Fox News-viewing supporters to dock their spaceship in a parallel universe where truth isn’t truth. At Tuesday night’s rally in West Virginia, Trump’s irony-challenged audience could be heard chanting “Drain the Swamp!” and “Lock her up!” (Hillary Clinton, that is), just a few hours after Paul Manafort’s conviction and Cohen’s guilty plea.

Milbank dismisses the common wisdom that excuses Republican officeholders because they fear the party’s base.

Republican lawmakers fear that with 87 percent of Republican voters backing Trump, crossing him is political suicide. But this is circular. Support among the Republican base remains high because Republican officeholders validate him.

Milbank quotes the “weasel words” of various Republican Senators–Cornyn, Grassley, Graham and Hatch–and references the criminal charges recently filed against two GOP Representatives (who just happened to be the first two to climb aboard the Trump Train). His recitation makes it impossible to disagree with his conclusion:

If Republicans don’t put some moral distance between themselves and Trump, there will soon be nothing left to salvage.

Conservative Values?

Mitch McConnell spoke last Friday to an annual evangelical-based conference for “voters of faith,” at which he was quoted as saying the following:

 In my view, the last 16 months have been the single best period for conservative values since I came to Washington.

Really?

Let’s leave aside the dubious “conservative values” of a thrice-married President who boasts of grabbing women’s genitals and who lies whenever his lips move. Instead, let’s look at the policies that have been put in place, either legislatively or through executive branch action, during the past sixteen months.

(I would have begun with McConnell’s own successful effort to trash the Constitution’s requirement that the Senate “advise and consent” to Presidential Supreme Court appointments, but that occurred outside the sixteen-month window.)

Back when I was a Republican, “conservative values” began with fiscal prudence and a discomfort with debt. Passage of a tax bill that adds trillions of dollars to the national debt in order to reward the wealthy doesn’t fall within the definition of fiscal prudence.

While the Grand Old Party has always included an undercurrent of bigotry (an undercurrent from which Democrats weren’t exempt), after William F. Buckley and other intellectuals made the case that the Birchers and anti-Semites and their ilk should be banished from influence, candidates who still wanted to appeal to that constituency did so through “dog whistles.” This Administration and a growing number of Republican candidates have abandoned that presumed “subtlety” for full-throated racism and misogyny. (Is David Duke’s support of Trump and Trumpism evidence of “conservative values”?)

I also remember respect for law and order being central to conservatism. Is Trump’s wholly unjustified attack on the FBI–not to mention the rule of law– part of that triumph of conservative values?

And how about family values? Granted, the phrase was usually a cover for some pretty discriminatory attitudes, but to the extent that the GOP and conservatives truly believe in the sanctity of marriage and the value of motherhood, how do those beliefs square with the practice of ripping children out of their mothers’ arms at the border? (As several people have pointed out, these families are making perfectly legal applications for refugee status; they aren’t sneaking across the border.)

Evangelical conservatives have always been leery of science, but secular conservatives and those who worship at less fundamentalist churches have valued education and scientific knowledge. The current Administration and GOP legislators reject evolution, dismiss climate science and refuse to take scientific advice on other topics.

Conservatives have previously been steadfast in their support of free markets. Trump has consistently attacked free trade, and has now imposed economically-damaging tariffs (on our friends!) that are likely to start a trade war. McConnell’s “conservatives” have remained mute.

And what about the time-honored conservative value of a strong national defense? Republican legislators have been complicit as Trump has damaged relations with our allies, trashed NATO,  cozied up to some of the world’s worst dictators, ignored warnings from America’s Intelligence agencies and appeared to be Vladimir Putin’s lap-dog.

Genuine conservatives value traditional standards of behavior and order. They believe in conserving the rules that have served us in the past. Liberals may disagree with conservatives about the proper role of government or the choice of rules to conserve, but those are principled differences of opinion between principled individuals whose values differ.

I don’t know what to call the “values” of the people running this country right now, assuming they have any, but whatever they are, they are neither conservative nor liberal. To coin a phrase, they’re deplorable.

Hannity, Evangelicals And Fiscal Conservatives

The election of Donald Trump has elevated hypocrisy to an art form.

Rightwing pundits criticized everything Obama did or said. (Of course, he was black…) Not only do they overlook appalling behavior, embarrassing (and frequently misspelled) tweets and uncivil, ignorant rants from Trump–they praise him when he engages in the exact behavior for which they excoriated Obama.

Case in point: Hannity. A post from Dispatches from the Culture Wars provides a recent–illustrative–example.

It has been announced that Trump will meet with Kim Jong-un of North Korea sometime soon, something no American president has ever done with a North Korean dictator. And Sean Hannity, not even pretending to be anything but a pathetic, hypocritical hack, is praising Trump for this great victory.

After quoting Hannity’s laudatory remarks, the post continues with a bit of history:

As always, the Wayback Machine shows a totally different story when Obama said in an interview that he would be open to meeting with him under the right circumstances if he thought it would help avoid a nuclear North Korea and preserve the peace.

During the May 15, 2008, edition of his Fox News show, Hannity referenced Obama’s answer and asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: “After Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, before we were at war with Nazi Germany, do you think it would be wise — would have it been wise for us to engage in talks with him?” Later during the same show, Hannity asked former Republican Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) the same thing: “After the Nazis invaded Poland, before we were at war with them, is it fair to ask the question, ‘Would you have met with Hitler in 1939?’

Then there’s Trump’s loyal base among self-proclaimed, “bible-believing” Evangelicals. Their continued support has been the subject of much (horrified) analysis from Evangelicals and others. A recent article in the Atlantic by Michael Gerson–formerly, George W. Bush’s speechwriter and an Evangelical himself– noted the jarring nature of that support:

One of the most extraordinary things about our current politics—really, one of the most extraordinary developments of recent political history—is the loyal adherence of religious conservatives to Donald Trump. The president won four-fifths of the votes of white evangelical Christians. This was a higher level of support than either Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, an outspoken evangelical himself, ever received.
Trump’s background and beliefs could hardly be more incompatible with traditional Christian models of life and leadership. Trump’s past political stances (he once supported the right to partial-birth abortion), his character (he has bragged about sexually assaulting women), and even his language (he introduced the words pussy and shithole into presidential discourse) would more naturally lead religious conservatives toward exorcism than alliance. This is a man who has cruelly publicized his infidelities, made disturbing sexual comments about his elder daughter, and boasted about the size of his penis on the debate stage. His lawyer reportedly arranged a $130,000 payment to a porn star to dissuade her from disclosing an alleged affair. Yet religious conservatives who once blanched at PG-13 public standards now yawn at such NC-17 maneuvers. We are a long way from The Book of Virtues.
Evidently, the promise of power trumps (sorry!) Christian behavior. That Jesus fellow was what our crass President would call a loser…
Despicable (and transparent) as these examples are, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the Congressional GOP are the clear winners of the hypocrisy sweepstakes. These “fiscal conservatives” spent years whining about the national debt–and the minute they were in power, cheerfully added over a trillion dollars to that debt, in a rushed-through tax “reform” that gave away the store to the already-rich.
Adding insult to injury, the ink was barely dry on that policy abomination when Ryan announced that Republicans will target welfare, Medicare, Medicaid spending in 2018–in order to control the national debt that they just increased!
That unashamed display of Robin Hood in reverse takes real chutzpah.
Even reading about these people makes me want to take a shower.

When History is Written…

When the history of the 21st Century is written (assuming there are people alive to research and write it) America’s current decline will be attributed largely to one man–and that man isn’t Donald Trump.

Of course Trump is dangerous. A number of his choices–both personnel and what passes for policy in his childlike worldview–are potentially catastrophic. But he is too delusional and ignorant to qualify as evil.

No, the most evil man in American government, in my humble opinion, is Mitch McConnell.

Trump is simply the result of McConnell’s consistent elevation of partisanship and power over principle. As James Fallows has pointed out, it was McConnell who took the filibuster from a seldom-used mechanism meant to ensure that minority opinions would be heard to a routine method of subverting majority rule. It was McConnell who famously promised to obstruct anything and everything Obama might do, irrespective of whether what was being obstructed was good policy, good for the country, or even if it had originated with his own party.

It was McConnell who, in the  summer of 2016,” put the kibosh on FBI going public with a warning of the Russian interference in the election, which they were already investigating.

And needless to say, it was McConnell who ignored 200+ years of precedent, and simply refused to allow the Senate to do its constitutional duty of advising and consenting to a sitting president’s nominee for the Supreme Court–doing incalculable damage to the rule of law and ultimately, to respect for close decisions that will be handed down by a court that includes a Justice conspicuously occupying a “stolen” seat.

In 2006, as McConnell was about to emerge as the Republican leader in the Senate, Zachary Roth and Cliff Schecter wrote an article for the Washington Monthly titled “Meet the New Boss.”  Here are some excerpts:

McConnell is a staunch conservative and a master of procedure, but no piece of landmark legislation bears his name. Almost the only issue on which he has a national profile is campaign-finance reform, and on that, he’s known as the man who fought it at every turn…

The Senate’s shift toward increased party discipline has been accompanied by a growing willingness to use the legislative process to benefit the Republican Party’s financial backers…

[McConnell is] a master of Senate rules and procedures, and he harbors no presidential aspirations that might distract him from his job. But unlike earlier leaders, he doesn’t keep score by legislative accomplishments. For the first time in recent memory, the Senate will be run by a leader with both the ability and the desire to use the institution entirely for partisan advantage

I’m hardly the only observer who attributes much of  America’s current dysfunction to McConnell. Dana Milbank calls him “The Man Who Broke America.” Milbank starts with one of the many, many examples of McConnell’s hypocrisy and dishonesty:

“No majority leader wants written on his tombstone that he presided over the end of the Senate,” the minority leader said.

He continued: “Breaking the rules to change the rules is un-American. I just hope the majority leader thinks about his legacy, the future of his party, and, most importantly, the future of our country before he acts.”

Are these the words of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the Republican majority changed Senate rules this week to do away with filibusters of Supreme Court nominations?

Actually, they were uttered in 2013, by then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), when Democrats pushed through a similar filibuster change for lesser nominations.

Milbank doesn’t mince words:

No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership, the triumph of tactics in service of short-term power.

Milbank further documents McConnell’s willingness to subvert longstanding Senate culture in service of rabid partisanship, pointing out that by 2013 his unprecedented, frequent use of the filibuster had blocked 79 of Obama’s nominees; that compared with 68 presidential appointments blocked during “the entire previous history of the Republic.”

The primacy of the rule of law was the most basic premise of the American constitution; as John Adams famously proclaimed, the Founders gave us a government of laws, not men. The constitutional architecture, with its three branches of government and a federalist structure leaving significant authority to the states, was an effort to constrain the abuse of power.

Trump doesn’t understand any of that, and he clearly has no idea how to use the rules themselves to evade those constraints. He doesn’t even know what the rules are.

McConnell, unfortunately, does.

Has Mitch McConnell Killed Irony?

He certainly has breathed new life into the demonstration of hypocrisy….

Example #1: Readers of this blog need not be reminded that McConnell absolutely refused to even consider a  sitting President’s Supreme Court nominee –an unprecedented assault on constitutional norms. And yet, when Chuck Schumer threatened to return the favor (albeit with a caveat: the Democrats would not stonewall a moderate candidate, only a radical one), he proclaimed that “the American public” wouldn’t stand for such dastardly behavior.

Um…any mirrors in your house, Mitch?

Example #2: The Senate is preparing to schedule hearings on Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees. However, a number of them have not turned in the documentation required for the FBI’s background check, and the Office of Government Ethics has raised objections to the speed with which McConnell wants to proceed. (He is “pooh poohing” the Office’s insistence on complete documentation prior to going forward with the hearings.)

This sudden desire to accommodate a President-Elect is especially interesting in light of  a letter McConnell wrote to Harry Reid prior to hearings on President Obama’s nominees. In that letter–which recently surfaced–McConnell set out a list of demands that absolutely had to be met prior to the Senate giving any consideration to those nominees.

McConnell wrote that “we expect the following standards will be met:

  1. The FBI background check is complete and submitted to the committee in time for review prior to a hearing being noticed.
  2. The Office of Government Ethics letter is complete and submitted to the committee in time for review and prior to a committee hearing.
  3. Financial disclosure statements (and tax returns for applicable committees) are complete and submitted to the committee prior to a hearing being noticed.
  4. All committee questionnaires are complete and have been returned to the committee. A reasonable opportunity for follow-up questions has been afforded committee members, and nominees have answered, with sufficient time for review prior to a committee vote.
  5. The nominee is willing to have committee staff interviews, where that has been the practice.
  6. The nominee has had a hearing.
  7. The nominee agrees to courtesy visits with members when requested.
  8. The nominee has committed to cooperate with the Ranking Member on requests for information and transparency.

There’s more, but you get the idea.

Now, I really have no objection to any of these requirements; I think they are appropriate. Evidently, Mitch McConnell (aka “turtle man”) also thought they were appropriate–when the nominations were being made by a Democratic President.

Suddenly, they are no longer necessary safeguards to protect American citizens from malfeasance or worse. (I’m sure the fact that McConnell’s wife is one of those nominees has nothing to do with this 180 degree change…)

How does this disgusting excuse for a human being sleep at night?