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    In Praise of Mitch McConnell

    In Praise of Mitch McConnell

    You have to hand it to the guy, he is a proven master tactician in the Senate, both in and out of power.

    Mitch McConnell isn’t the flashiest person on Capitol Hill. To put it mildly.

    Chuck Schumer regularly beats McConnell to the TV cameras, and Nancy Pelosi makes grand pronouncements as if the Senate and McConnell don’t exist.

    He’s been called a lot of names. I don’t even know where “Cocaine Mitch” came from, but its juxtaposition to McConnell’s somewhat dour public personality turns the obvious slur into a term of endearment.

    Certainly, McConnell has been viewed by Republican insurgents as the embodiment of establishment Republicanism, and during the heyday of the Tea Party movement, McConnell was a frequent target.

    But you have to hand it to the guy, he is a proven master tactician in the Senate, both in and out of power.

    On December 22, 2010, I paid tribute to the out-of-power McConnell, In Praise of Mitch McConnell:

    This is not the post you probably were expecting from me given my harsh — and as always prescient — criticism of Republicans in the lame duck session.  I was screaming “capitulation!” before screaming “capitulation!” was fashionable.

    Notwithstanding the lame duck session, give Mitch McConnell some credit for the war which has been fought the past two years.

    When Obama took office, Republicans had been routed in two consecutive elections.  With Democrats having an overwhelming majority in the House, and a near filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, there was not much the Republican leadership could do.

    As I noted before, in my post Some of Our Finest Hours, a variety of players and people fought valiant political battles to slow down the Obama onslaught.  Those battles, particularly over Obamacare, created the landscape which led to victories in 2010.

    But there was only so much McConnell could do….

    Against overwhelming odds in which the defeat of the Obama agenda was not possible, the best that could be hoped for was to get Obama and the Democrats stuck in the mud, to have them advance to places they did not want to be, and to set up the stage for the electoral counterattack.

    I’m not a military historian or tactician, but I do understand the concept of prepping the battlefield.  That is as true in politics as in war.

    For his role in prepping the 2010 political battlefield, for getting Obama and Democrats stuck in the mud of their own creating, and for giving us the possibility of significant gains in the coming years, Mitch McConnell deserves our praise.

    Later in the Obama years, after Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2014, McConnell prepped the landscape for a future (and as yet unnamed) Republican president by keeping down Obama’s judicial appointments.

    Keeping the Scalia seat open despite the nomination of Merrick Garland was perhaps McConnell’s most significant achievement. That single move led to Mr. Justice Gorsuch filling his mentor’s seat and later to Mr. Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

    Those lower court judicial vacancies also allowed McConnell, despite unprecedented obstruction by Democrats in the Senate, to shepherd almost 200 federal court nominees to confirmation. Trump is reshaping the federal judiciary for a generation to come, but it was made possible by Mitch McConnell.

    Nowhere has McConnell’s tactical skill been more apparent than in the Democrats’ impeachment effort. He let the House do its thing, which is right because he’s not the Speaker of the House. Because of his respect for the institution, he showed Pelosi more respect than she ever showed him. McConnell also must have known that left to their own devices Democrats in the House would screw things up in their venomous rush to impeach. And so they did.

    McConnell stood strong in refusing to negotiate Senate trial procedures with Pelosi and in insisting on the Clinton model for Senate trial procedure. That Clinton procedure allowed the House Managers to fill the TV screens for days, but it also allowed Team Trump to make its case.

    And in the end, McConnell kept enough Senate Republicans in line to prevent Adam Schiff and other Democrats from turning the Senate into a circus as they had in the House.

    Whatever criticism one might have about McConnell being an insider and establishment, he got the job done.

    So this is another post in praise of Mitch McConnell.


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    We lost our chance at a national concealed carry law because of McConnell. It passed the House and was never brought forward in the Senate

    tom_swift | February 1, 2020 at 10:40 pm

    I don’t think there’s any question that McConnell knows what he’s doing. But the problem has been that we don’t know what he’s doing.

    In any event, getting Senate Repubs to actually do anything useful must be like herding fish.

    Lanceman | February 1, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    You don’t know how he got the name Cocaine Mitch?

    His wife, Elaine Chao’s family owns an import/export business. Ships like Maersk and whatnot. One shipping container was caught by customs with a significant amount of coke being smuggled.

    Now. Just don’t ask me how he became known as Murder Turtle.

      Alex deWynter in reply to Lanceman. | February 1, 2020 at 11:18 pm

      Oh, it gets better. He got tagged with the nickname by a guy (and federal ex-con) named Blankenship, who was trying to primary him. McConnell took it and ran with it, tweeting himself in Narcos memes and giving his campaign workers ‘McConnell Cartel’ t-shirts.

    starride | February 1, 2020 at 11:48 pm

    I have a question to the lawyers, as the senate trial is an article 2 court, and as it is my understanding that the article 3 court has stated that they have no jurisdiction over an article 2 court.

    If the senate had voted to breach executive privilege. The supreme’s would have stayed out of it, and that means there would be no separation of powers anymore. Is that really a possibility?

      Barry in reply to starride. | February 2, 2020 at 12:27 am

      “If the senate had voted to…”

      I’ll answer with a hypothetical question –

      If the senate did, and the president told them to blow it out their ass, where do you think it would end up?

        starride in reply to Barry. | February 2, 2020 at 1:10 am

        I don’t know, it would be a constitutional crisis. What mechanism would be there for enforcement short of full impeachment and removal.

          Milhouse in reply to starride. | February 2, 2020 at 2:05 am

          None. Impeachment and removal is the congress’s only weapon.

            Not so. The Dems could threaten to hold daily press conferences by Pelosi, Schumer, and Nadler about the evils and dangers of Trump.

            Tom Servo in reply to Milhouse. | February 2, 2020 at 9:27 am

            People forget that our entire system depends on the voluntary acceptance and willingness of everyone involved to follow the Constitutional rules. That’s why the Democrats attack on civil norms is so damaging, it eats away the foundations of our entire system.

            The question discussed here is much like the question, “What if a President were to call in the 82nd Airborne, throw all of the Senators and Congressmen in military prison, and abolish the Supreme Court?” And this isn’t just a hypothetical; this has happened in South American countries many, many times.

            That is always the ultimate destination when a country drops the idea of “rule of law”.

            Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | February 2, 2020 at 5:26 pm

            The answer is that the 82nd would ignore his order, and he’d very soon find himself under arrest.

            It’s the same answer as the one to the paranoids who predicted that 0bama would refuse to leave office on Jan 20, 2017, or the parallel paranoids on the left who made the same prediction about GWB eight years earlier. The answer in both cases was that at noon the armed forces would stop obeying him, and the White House staff would soon throw his things out on to Pennsylvania Ave.

          4rdm2 in reply to starride. | February 2, 2020 at 6:32 am

          So DJB – they would threaten to keep doing the exact same thing they are doing now?

    Terence G. Gain | February 2, 2020 at 7:25 am

    This is a great post Professor. In my opinion, you need to be an outsider to want to drain the swamp, but you need to be an insider to know how to do it. The appointment of Christopher Wray, who has done nothing to reform the FBI and the composition of the NSC illustrate this point.

    I believe it will take about 4 Republican terms to undo the damage of Obama.It seems likely that President Trump will win a huge majority. The GOP should be concentrating on Congress. Retaining the Senate and regaining the House are necessary for President Trump to continue implementing his agenda. The loss of the House in 2018 was an unmitigated disaster.

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