Tag Archives: Mitch McConnell

Words Utterly Fail….

A few days ago, I posted about the excellent bill Congressional Democrats have introduced to begin the overdue cleanup of corrupted democratic processes. The bill includes curbs on gerrymandering and safeguards against vote suppression, among other things.

The one element of the bill that I figured was unlikely to be controversial was the proposal to make Election Day a national holiday. Good government groups have been lobbying for this for years. I mean, how can you argue against making voting easier for people who work long hours and have other problems getting to the polls?

Mitch McConnell–aka the most evil man in America–just answered what I thought was a rhetorical question. He has labeled the proposal “a power grab.”

I suppose if you are convinced that facilitating citizens’ ability to cast their votes will lead to  higher vote totals for your political opponents–if you know, in your heart of hearts that you and your party are historically unpopular– that might seem like a power grab…Still, it’s hard to imagine McConnell offering this argument with a straight face.

There has been a lot of outrage expressed in the wake of McConnell’s chutzpah, but I think Ed Brayton’s response at Dispatches from the Culture Wars is my favorite.

The man who refused to allow even a committee vote on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for nearly a year so a Republican could appoint the next justice is accusing someone else of a power grab? The fact that he wasn’t immediately struck dead by lightning is powerful evidence that there is no god (or that god is a first-class jerk, take your pick). This is Trumpian-level lack of self-awareness and shamelessness. I can’t imagine how the man sleeps at night, other than on a pile of money.

McConnell was recently described by a historian as “the gravedigger of American democracy,” a description he has clearly earned. (Even Donald Trump, who never met a greedy thug he couldn’t relate to, evidently told aides that McConnell was “meaner than a snake.”)

McConnell has defended his opposition to making Election Day a holiday by claiming it would cost money, because it would require government workers to be paid. In Mitch’s world, the country can easily afford to give billions in “tax relief” to corporations, but can’t manage continuing to compensate government employees for one extra day off.

Hoosiers like to make fun of folks from Kentucky, characterizing them as not-too-smart hillbillies. I’ve always maintained that bigotry–even geographical bigotry–is always wrong. But to the extent that there is  evidence for that characterization of our neighbors to the south, it is that they have repeatedly voted for Mitch McConnell.

How It Can Happen Here

A month or so ago, the New York Review of Books ran a lengthy essay by Christopher Browning, titled The Suffocation of Democracy.

Browning is a historian specializing in the Holocaust and Nazi Germany, and–as one might expect–the essay considers the parallels and differences between then in Germany and now in the United States. He notes several troubling similarities–and one equally troubling difference. After sketching U.S. policies in the run-up to World War Two, and emphasizing the importance of the post-war international agreements, he writes

Today, President Trump seems intent on withdrawing the US from the entire post–World War II structure of interlocking diplomatic, military, and economic agreements and organizations that have preserved peace, stability, and prosperity since 1945. His preference for bilateral relations, conceived as zero-sum rivalries in which he is the dominant player and “wins,” overlaps with the ideological preference of Steve Bannon and the so-called alt-right for the unfettered self-assertion of autonomous, xenophobic nation-states—in short, the pre-1914 international system. That “international anarchy” produced World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Great Depression, the fascist dictatorships, World War II, and the Holocaust, precisely the sort of disasters that the post–World War II international system has for seven decades remarkably avoided.

In addition to the “agenda of withdrawal” parallels, he compares the political weakness of those in control of the Weimar Republic–weakness that led them to cast their lot with Hitler–to the shrinking American support for conservatism that led to the GOP’s embrace of Trump.

But Browning saves his most scathing–and accurate– criticism for Mitch McConnell, writing

If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell. He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could. As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more. Nowhere is this vicious circle clearer than in the obliteration of traditional precedents concerning judicial appointments. Systematic obstruction of nominations in Obama’s first term provoked Democrats to scrap the filibuster for all but Supreme Court nominations. Then McConnell’s unprecedented blocking of the Merrick Garland nomination required him in turn to scrap the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in order to complete the “steal” of Antonin Scalia’s seat and confirm Neil Gorsuch. The extreme politicization of the judicial nomination process is once again on display in the current Kavanaugh hearings….Like Hitler’s conservative allies, McConnell and the Republicans have prided themselves on the early returns on their investment in Trump.

The difference Browning identifies between then and now is equally unsettling. Hitler had to take overt actions to dissolve labor unions, to seize control of media and pursue other measures that consolidated his power. Browning says such actions are no longer necessary, because American democracy is being suffocated from within: the independence of the judiciary is being steadily eroded; the free press still exists, but has been neutered by a flood of propaganda and fake news; and systemic flaws like gerrymandering and the Electoral College have allowed the GOP to win elections despite garnering only minority support.

On these issues, often described as the guardrails of democracy against authoritarian encroachment, the Trump administration either has won or seems poised to win significant gains for illiberalism. Upon his appointment as chancellor, Hitler immediately created a new Ministry of People’s Enlightenment and Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels, who remained one of his closest political advisers.

In Trump’s presidency, those functions have effectively been privatized in the form of Fox News and Sean Hannity.

I think it was Mark Twain who said history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.

 

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.