A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bill Straub: It take a certain talent to spew gibberish on a consistent basis, and McConnell has talent

Looks can, indeed be deceiving. Take Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, for example.

McConnell, of Louisville, comes across as your dull, standard issue white-man-in-a-suit with a droning voice who would turn the head of absolutely no one at the neighborhood Piggly-Wiggly. But the fact is ol’ Root-‘n-Branch is one of the most outrageous figures to hit the American scene since Huey Long, maybe even since Aaron Burr, and many insist even the most mind-boggling things he utters are the sign of political genius.

Now give the devil his due – it takes a certain talent to spew contemptible gibberish on a consistent basis while determinably undermining the girding of the republic and getting away with it. McConnell is the very essence of a successful politician – one who disgorges the most astonishing horse manure yet manages to have it embraced for its beautiful aroma.

Leave us consider how Mitch is practicing his craft these days. You may have heard that Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court after 30 years on the bench. Kennedy hasn’t exactly been an Oliver Wendell Holmes or a Louis Brandeis during his long tenure but he on rare occasions at least provided needed balance.

Kennedy’s imminent departure means President Trump (OMG!) will be given yet another opportunity to dispatch America back to the 1950s with a Supreme Court appointment, to a time when African-Americans and women knew their places and white guys reigned unchallenged. Humpty-Trumpty’s choice will undoubtedly kill any hope that the sluggish country he’s alleged to be leading can place one foot in front of the other as we motivate toward mid-century.

In a tweet, which is how politicians communicate with their constituents these days, ol’ Root-‘n-Branch assured one and all that the Senate “stands ready to fulfill our constitutional role by offering advice and consent on @POTUS’ nominee to fill the #SCOTUS vacancy that Justice Kennedy’s retirement will create.’’

Now you don’t have to maintain a long memory to recall that McConnell wasn’t much interested in constitutional niceties when Barack Obama was president and Justice Antonin Scalia died more than 11 months before the next administration was due to take over. Ol’ Mitch immediately took the “Constitution? What Constitution?’’ view of the proceedings and refused to even acknowledge that Obama nominated the obviously qualified Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia – no hearings, no meetings, no vote.

Instead, McConnell saw to it that the court’s opening remained vacant for 14 months, tying the court’s hands on numerous occasions, before pushing through Humpty-Trumpy’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch, who thus far has proven to be the dimmest of bulbs. So much for constitutional fidelity.

Even then, the only way ol’ Root-‘n-Branch managed to get Gorsuch on the high court was by changing Senate rules in the middle of the game, rendering it impossible for minority Democrats to filibuster the nomination of a stooge.

As a result, McConnell declared this to be his proudest moment in the Senate, which should tell you all you need to know about his legislative career. Now a woman’s right to control her own reproductive system, same-sex marriage, civil rights, health care and a whole host of initiatives will be up for grabs with a newly aligned Supreme Court, all achieved through cheating and spitting on the Constitution, an illegitimate process that made Addison Mitchell McConnell very proud.

It took Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, of New York, to point out the obvious – that McConnell was “simply engaging in hypocrisy.”

“Of course, if Republicans were consistent, they would wait to consider Justice Kennedy’s successor until after the midterm elections,’’ Schumer said. “Time and again, Leader McConnell justified his unjustifiable blockade of Merrick Garland by claiming the American people should have a voice in deciding the next Supreme Court Justice. That was in February of an election year. It is now almost July.’’

Left unsaid is the possibility that the next justice may be called on to cast a vote in the case of the United States vs. Trump, should that issue arise. Trump’s successful presidential campaign is under investigation for, among other things, colluding (there’s that word) with the Russian government to affect the outcome. If issues in the case ever come before the high court, the new justice will almost certainly be sympathetic to the president that appointed him/her.

If all this huffing about fulfilling his constitutional duty wasn’t nauseating enough, McConnell is now whining about the possibility that Democrats might say mean things about the ultimate nominee – despite remaining mum over all the godawful things Humpty-Trumpy said to besmirch anyone of his choosing before and after assuming office.

“Unfortunately, far-left special interest groups are already calling on Senate Democrats to oppose anyone — anyone — on President Trump’s long list of potential nominees,’’ McConnell harrumphed on the Senate floor, failing to note that Democrats had already taken a gander at the list of potential contenders and quite understandably vomited in their mouths.

All of Trump’s potential nominees maintain “exceptional legal minds,” ol’ Root-‘n-Branch insisted, and that finding all of them unacceptable is “totally absurd.”

It was left to Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY, to point out that the list was generated and handed to Humpty-Trumpy by right-wing outfits looking to roil the civil order.

“We will evaluate the President’s nominees on the issues,” Schumer said. “But every American should have his or her eyes wide open to the fact that President Trump is not picking the best legal mind. He has sworn to nominate a Justice culled from a preordained list, vetted by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society — organizations whose mission has been to repeal Roe v. Wade and strike at the heart of our healthcare law.

“Does anyone believe a nominee on that pre-vetted list doesn’t want to challenge Roe?’’ Schumer asked.

On another matter, ol’ Mitch indicated we may have to put up with school shootings for a while because “I don’t think at the federal level there’s much that we can do other than appropriate funds.’’

Appearing in Danville, McConnell told a group of community leaders that he believes enhanced school security would prove to be the most beneficial deterrence.

“You would think, given how much it takes to get on an American plane or given how much it takes to get into courthouses, that this might be something that we could achieve, but I don’t think we could do that from Washington, I think it’s basically a local decision,” he said.

Of course, McConnell would never consider tightening gun control laws on the federal level, like prohibiting bump stocks, demanding background checks for all purchases and banning certain semi-automatic weapons. As has been noted, there is one constant in the school shootings that have plagued the nation – they all involved guns.

McConnell is a slippery character. He will do and say anything in order to win. That propensity renders him, in the eyes of many, a supreme legislative strategist, a wily manipulator of the rules when, really, the only thing that separates him from most of his predecessors is that he’s amoral.

Questioning whether McConnell has a soul is out of bounds and a determination best left to a higher and wiser power. What’s fair to ask is, assuming he has a soul, where he’s been hiding it and whether he intends to show it off anytime soon.

KyForward’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment