Friday, May 29, 2020

Is It Really Possible That History Will Judge Mitch McConnell More Harshly Than Trump?


Yesterday, The Nation published a piece by Jeet Heer, Mitch McConnell Is Even Worse Than Trump, which notes that both are now basically AWOL is the pandemic crisis. While Trump spends his days "stirring up culture-war controversies with the media and Democrats as a way to move the discussion beyond the pandemic and the economic crisis. A distraction strategy makes sense because Trump has effectively given up on crafting any serious policy response to the pandemic. As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post notes, 'Trump’s war on reality has veered into a new place. Trump is responding to our most dire public health and economic crises in modern times with a concerted, far-reaching effort to concoct the mirage that we’re racing past both. The signs of this,' Sargent observes, 'are everywhere: in a new federal testing blueprint that largely casts responsibility on the states. In Trump’s new rage-tweets at the North Carolina governor over whether a full convention will be held under coronavirus conditions. And in demands for liability protections for companies so sickened workers can’t sue.'Trump’s response to the pandemic, now that the first wave has peaked and is perhaps beginning a slow decline, is to ride it out. He is going to do as much as he can to pretend that it is all but over and to distance himself from any responsibility for the continuing deaths."
Trump has in effect gone AWOL. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has been equally derelict, taking repeated breaks from Washington and focusing his energies more on filling court vacancies than crafting a policy response to the pandemic. In mid-March, the hashtag #WheresMitch gained currency because he recessed the Senate to return to his home state of Kentucky to celebrate the elevation of a protégé, Justin Walker, to the federal bench.

Last Friday, the Senate started another recess, this one lasting three weeks. That leaves the $3 trillion relief package that the House has passed in a limbo, awaiting McConnell’s return for negotiations to even start deliberating about any Senate revisions. McConnell’s decision to delay the relief package comes at a time when unemployment rates are about to approach 20 percent, a catastrophic level not seen since the Great Depression. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell warns that the recession could last until the end of 2021.

Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are often treated like an odd couple, a pair of opposites who have been forced together. Trump is the loud outsider who has no real understanding of how government works. McConnell is the low-key consummate insider, skilled at gaming the system through backroom deals.

Jane Mayer’s in-depth profile of the Kentucky senator in the New Yorker quotes many Washington observers who draw a contrast between the two men. One former Trump administration official told Mayer, “It would be hard to find two people less alike in temperament in the political arena. With Trump, there’s rarely an unspoken thought. McConnell is the opposite-- he’s constantly thinking but says as little as possible.” The official added, “Trump is about winning the day, or even the hour. McConnell plays the long game. He’s sensitive to the political realities. His North Star is continuing as Majority Leader-- it’s really the only thing for him. He’s patient, sly, and will obfuscate to make less apparent the ways he’s moving toward a goal.”

But as Mayer makes clear, McConnell’s single-minded focus on keeping his position as majority leader aligns him in a deep way with Trump, despite their superficial dissimilarities. Both Trump and McConnell are nihilists, eager above all to hold on to power and to serve the wealthy donors of the Republican Party. Mayer quotes John David Dyche, a conservative lawyer in Louisville who had been a McConnell admirer until recently and wrote an admiring biography of him. According to Dyche, McConnell “of course realizes that Trump is a hideous human being and utterly unfit to be president” but doesn’t do anything about it because the senator has “no ideology except his own political power.”

Far from being an odd couple, Trump and McConnell are a perfectly paired duo. They work well together as a grifter team. Trump is the clown who grabs all the attention, while McConnell picks the pockets of the distracted crowd.

As grotesque as Trump is, McConnell is worse. McConnell has been around longer and has helped create the conditions that made Trump’s rise possible. McConnell’s obstruction during the Obama years, including blocking the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, contributed to the demoralization of the Democratic base and the larger feeling in America that Washington is hopelessly gridlocked. In 2016 Trump skillfully exploited the anxiousness created by gridlock and sold himself as the outsider who can fix it.

Democrats are eager to defeat Trump in the fall election. But they should bear in mind that McConnell is the bigger villain. The goal should be to make sure McConnell loses his position as majority leader. Even sweeter would be if he were ejected from his seat.
Charles Booker resigned from his state Rep job to run full-time against McConnell. This morning he told me that "The reality is that Mitch McConnell controls so much of what happens in Washington. As reckless and dangerous as Trump is, it is Mitch McConnell’s absolute abandonment of his oath, our constitution, and our lives that has allowed Trump to balloon our deficit, uproot our progress on the world stage, and willfully ignore the chances to lead in the face of COVID-19. Donald Trump is an idiot, but Mitch McConnell is intentional. There is no progress for our country that includes him remaining in office. That is why I am building a movement of fed up and fired up Kentuckians to beat him."

The other progressive in the Kentucky Democratic primary is Mike Broihier, who has been endorsed by Marianne Williamson, This morning, Mike told us that "It was the slow realization that Trump was a symptom and McConnell the disease that pulled me into the fight to rid the Republic of him. In rare moments of honesty McConnell himself will tip his hand and tell us he is, '...changing America for ever,' with his agenda of, 'Judges, judges, judges.' The smoke and noise from the daily dumpster fire at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is perfect cover for him packing the federal bench with unqualified, ideologically driven judges with lifetime appointments. Judges that are hostile to women, hostile to racial minorities, hostile to LGBTQ persons, hostile to labor and hostile to immigrants. Long after Trump is gone and long after McConnell is gone generations of Americans will be dealing with the fallout of this tactic."

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At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To judge McConnell more harshly than Trump would be a good thing, but as the media barely covers McConnell in a judgemental way now, I don't see it happening.

But one can't leave off the ineptitude and malfeasance of Pelosi and Schumer from the vilification. McConnell could do much less if he was opposed when he should have been.

At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the usa? that's funny.

neither one will be "judged" harshly. Trump will have his name plastered all over public buildings and parks and military things when the next Nazi president and senate are elected... maybe in 2021.

Moscow's bitch will have a statue in Lexington and probably the poly-sci building at UK within 5 years.

Granted, there is a 50-50 chance both will be sporting swastikas... but that's still not being judged harshly.


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