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Bill Straub: Petty resistance at every turn as President-elect’s team tries to move on inauguration

Kentucky’s gift to the nation and the whole, wide world for that matter, Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch’’ McConnell, has now taken a firm stance regarding that centuries old American practice of a smooth, peaceful and celebratory transfer of power.

He’s against it.

McConnell, of Louisville, is a member of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which oversees the preparations every four years for the events surrounding the move from one president to the next, including the swearing-in formality. It’s generally a pro forma task, with representatives from both political parties turning the job over to staff so they can get back to some really important business – hitting the phones to raise campaign funds.

Not anymore.

The NKyTribune’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

House Democratic Floor Leader Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, another member of the panel, introduced what should have been a rather innocuous proposal addressing the lawmakers’ intent to maintain safety standards during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hoyer asked the committee to “notify the American people that we are preparing for the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his Vice President, Kamala Harris, in coordination with the Biden Presidential Inaugural Committee and public health experts to ensure the health and safety of the American people as we observe this transition of power.”
The committee’s three Democrats voted in favor of the Hoyer resolution.

The three Republicans, led by McConnell, opposed it.

McConnell didn’t offer a rationale for his flight from reality but it’s fair to assume that his antagonism stems from the section that identifies Joe Biden, a Democrat, as the president-elect. Ol’ Root-‘n-Branch, more than a month after the vote that overwhelmingly settled in Biden’s favor, has adamantly refused to see the nose on his face and bow to the inevitability of a Democratic administration.

Let’s be clear – all 50 states and the District of Columbia have certified their results. Biden defeated the incumbent Republican, President Donald J. Trump, aka Loser, by more than 7 million votes, good for 51.3 percent of the total. More importantly, he earned 306 electoral votes, where only 270 are necessary. Election officials are unanimous that the vote in their respective states was clean. Attorney General William Barr asserted there is no evidence of massive fraud.

Yet Trump, the loser, as you may have heard, with the support of McConnell and just about every other nitwit Republican apparently unable to count to three if you spotted them the one and the two, has refused to concede and launched a massive assault on the federal and state judiciaries, seeking to overturn the results by claiming massive fraud despite the lack of anything approaching evidence, other than the Tumpster’s say-so.

Of course the courts ain’t buying, even though Trump appointed a substantial number of judges on the federal side. Even the Supreme Court, with three freshly-minted justices appointed by the sore loser, told parties seeking to overturn the results in Pennsylvania that ended in Biden’s favor to take a hike.

But here’s McConnell, who one might think certainly knows better, continuing to repel efforts to proclaim that Joe Biden is the next president of the United States. In a Nov. 9 floor speech he gurgled up a proposition he continues to perpetuate, stating that Trump “is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options.”

No kidding.

Whether or not Trump has the right to turn the nation’s electoral process into a farce, on the verge of crossing the border into insanity, isn’t the question. McConnell, as often is the case, is being intentionally obtuse. There is no statute on the books that requires him to merrily join Trump in this hapless misadventure. He can bail out at any time, proceed to the transition and essentially save the nation from having to listen to this sordid mess.

In other words, he can acknowledge Trump has the right to transform his misbegotten venture into a scene from Duck Soup while simultaneously admitting he’s full of baloney, or some other such substance I can’t cite here.

In doing so he would calm the waters and prepare for the future. Instead his silence is egging on the soon-to-be-but-not-soon-enough-gone president while inflaming his supporters who, for lord knows what reason, believe he will prevail in the end and continue to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., except, of course for the many, many months he spends in Mar-a-Lago playing golf.

So why, exactly, is McConnell continuing to play Jeeves to Trump’s Bertie Wooster? He certainly realizes his Orange Eminence is a goner, that he’s misleading at best that portion of the public that confers god-like characteristics to Trump and is dedicated to a fight to the end.

Obviously Republican votes are, as always, more important to McConnell than the good of the republic, a position that should surprise no one who has watched mouth agape over ol’ Root-‘n-Branch’s unsurpassed political cynicism over the years.

The Republican Party has transformed over the past four years into the Trump Party, and any deviation from the precepts of himself is blasphemy and woe be to those who chart a logical path. Trump is, indeed, leaving the White House but bet your bottom dollar he is not going away. He is already plotting his return in 2024 and siccing his rabid followers on anyone who fails to toe the mark he sets.

McConnell hopes to remain majority leader for at least another two years, depending on the outcome of two Senate races in Georgia that won’t be decided until January. Winning just one of those two will retain him as chief cook and bottle washer in the upper chamber but, looking ahead, the waters could turn rough.

There will be 34 seats open in the Senate two years hence and Republicans will have to defend 22 of them, a tall order even in a presidential mid-term when the party holding the presidency traditionally loses seats. Two lawmakers already have announced they don’t intend to seek re-election, including Sen. Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania, creating an opening the GOP might find hard to retain. The loss of Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, might also present problems.

Maintaining ties to Trump probably helps in the ongoing campaign for the two Georgia Senate seats, even though Biden scored an upset in the Peach State. And you don’t want Trump bad-mouthing Republican candidates with Senate control at stake.

And the Trump Army will willingly assault any hill in defense of their man. Several have already vowed to die in the effort to return him to the White House. In less polite society one would characterize their devotion as a cult.

I recently received this from a true believer:

“Everyone knows the election was stolen by the lefties and your name calling and telling us how stupid we are will not change our minds.”

In pursuit of Trump’s love, and his voters, McConnell is ignoring the damage to the republic.

Individuals convinced the election was “rigged’’ are casting doubt on the entire democratic process. Mobs will refuse to view Joe Biden as the duly-elected president and go to great lengths to display their contempt. The grand tradition of a meaningful transition is almost surely now a thing of the past. The promise of a new era of cooperation between warring factions in the Senate is almost certainly gone with the wind as well. Elected officials who have disagreed with the course undertaken by the sitting president feel threatened.

And the hope that McConnell might actually see fit to work with the incoming administration to deal with problems associated with the pandemic, the debt, global climate change and a host of other issues, well, with McConnell in charge, it was probably only a pipe dream anyway.

Ultimately Trump’s road to perdition will hit the inevitable dead end. But it all befits a country beginning to display the characteristics of a nation in decline. And Mitch stands with arms folded and a smile on his face.

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