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Bill Straub: Ugliness joins with falsehood to come out in open, revealing McConnell’s disdain for Obama

It’s no secret that Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch’’ McConnell has long looked upon former President Barack Obama with the sort of disdain the University of Kentucky faithful hold for Christian Laettner.

Now it’s getting ugly. McConnell, of Louisville, is pulling out the falsehoods. And that sound you hear is the dog whistle growing louder.

McConnell on Monday aimed some pointed barbs at Obama after the former president, in a private teleconference with former aides that was leaked to the public, criticized Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, characterizing it as “an absolute chaotic disaster.”

Moscow Mitch sailed over the absolute accuracy of that analysis to attack Obama for having the audacity to chide his obviously incompetent successor, asserting that the former president – and this is a quote — “should’ve kept his mouth shut.”

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

“I think it’s a little bit classless, frankly, to critique an administration that comes after you,” McConnell said. “You had your shot. You were there for eight years.”

In other words, McConnell maintains America’s first African-American president should know his place and defer to his betters, regardless of the dark path his successor is ploughing. His harrumphing here apparently doesn’t apply to the sitting president continuously bashing his predecessor – Trump has taken occasion to accuse Obama of everything up to and including kidnapping the Lindberg baby and our boy Mitch has adamantly refused to criticize the president for doing so.

Trump has, for instance, slammed Obama on subjects ranging from the nation’s policy toward Syria to trade negotiations with China to – hilariously — the former president’s frequent trips to the golf course during his tenure in office.

During the G-7 summit in France last year Trump smugly asserted that Russia President Vladimir Putin “outsmarted” Obama by annexing Crimea from Ukraine.
Obama refused over the past many months to take the bait and challenge Trump’s claims, opting to let this sorry administration run its sad course. Recently, the president’s diatribes against his predecessor have grown evermore frantic, coining the term “Obamagate’’ to explain some screwy theory rattling around in his addled head about Obama leading some sort of coup to upend the Trump presidency.

Did McConnell, the man who believes Obama “should’ve kept his mouth shut,” provide similar tsk-tsking over the outrageous and whacky bilge spewing from the president’s pie hole?

Please. Don’t be foolish. To Moscow Mitch it’s always open season on Obama and it’s Obama being uppity when he dares to offer an opinion regardless of how justified.

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said it best: I’m sure Mitch is aware that a grown-ass black man who happens to be a former president has agency to speak his mind on how his successor is managing the crisis, especially since his successor has yet to keep “his mouth shut’’ about him.

“And classless?”

Thy name is Trump.

McConnell’s rant didn’t end there. He went on to essentially blame the former president for the nation’s coronavirus predicament, complaining Obama’s administration for any lack of preparation to handle a pandemic.

“Clearly the Obama Administration did not leave to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this,” McConnell said.

McConnell is wrong here. He is, in fact, telling what in impolite society would be characterized as a lie. It’s a lie because he uttered this garbage knowing it was untrue.

But the veracity of the statement doesn’t matter to Mitch McConnell and, as history has shown over and over again, the concept of truthfulness is something completely foreign to the current president of these United States. The idea is to find a fall guy to blame for the obvious shortcomings in the Trump administration’s reaction to the coronavirus threat which, as of this writing, has resulted in almost 1.4 million domestic cases – more than five times the number of any other country – and 83,150 deaths – the United Kingdom is second with 33,263.

To be clear, what we’re getting from McConnell and Trump is that old reliable blame the black guy.

It’s always worked before. Let’s haul it out one more time.

In fact, despite McConnell’s claim, the Obama administration ended in January 2017 having handed over to the incoming Trump folks a 69-page “Pandemic playbook’’ – a National Security Council document officially titled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents.”

Included in that playbook – on page 9, to be exact – were warnings about “novel influenza viruses” and “coronaviruses” that could require a major response. The playbook offered specific recommendations on technical questions that needed to be asked and answered, decisions on how to address the crisis and which federal agencies were involved. According to CNN, subjects addressed included testing, funding, personal protective equipment, emergency declarations, border control measures, diplomacy, the use of the military, public communication and even mortuary services.

Simply put, that playbook was ignored by the Trump administration. Hence the mess America finds itself in.

“The maddening thing is Obama left them a WH office for pandemics, a literal playbook, a cabinet-level exercise, and a global infrastructure to deal with something like this,’’ former Obama aide Ben Rhodes said in a tweet.

The Trump administration further during the transition was involved with Obama officials in a simulation exercise regarding what should be done during a potential pandemic.

Apparently, the lessons weren’t learned.

But wait, there’s more.

In 2011, Obama sought to bulk up the stockpile of paraphernalia that would be needed in face of a pandemic. Coffers were depleted to a large degree as the nation battled the deadly swine flu in 2009 and 2010. But Republicans, having assumed control of the House that year and maintaining sufficient Senate numbers to filibuster, told the then president to go blow his nose.

According to Pro Publica, “efforts to bulk up the stockpile fell apart in tense standoffs between the Obama White House and congressional Republicans.” Had Congress kept funding at the 2010 level through the end of the Obama administration, the stockpile would have benefited from $321 million more than it ended up getting.”

As a result, The Washington Post reported that 85 million N95 masks deployed from the stockpile during the swine flu crisis were never replaced.

That wasn’t the only time Obama pushed for greater preparation. In November 2014 he asked congress for $6.18 billion in emergency funds to enhance the government’s ability to respond to an outbreak of Ebola while simultaneously establishing “some of the public health infrastructure that we need to deal with potential outbreaks in the future.” He offered a presentation at the National Institutes for Health in Bethesda, MD, urging that the U.S. invest in creating an infrastructure for dealing with an “airborne disease that is deadly” that would “allow us to see it quickly, isolate it quickly, respond to it quickly.”

“If and when a new strain of flu, like the Spanish flu, crops up five years from now or a decade from now, we’ve made the investment and we’re further along to be able to catch it,” he said. “It is a smart investment for us to make. It’s not just insurance; it is knowing that down the road we’re going to continue to have problems like this — particularly in a globalized world where you move from one side of the world to the other in a day.”

It fell on deaf Republican ears in congress. Guess who the Senate Republican leader was at the time. That’s right, Addison Mitchell McConnell who vowed to give no ground to Obama for purely political reasons when the latter assumed office in 2009.

The Trump administration took an entirely different tack when it assumed the reins in January 2017. It set about dismantling the team in charge of pandemic response, disbanding the group team in spring 2018. It also sought budget cuts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health agencies. So by late February, according to Snopes, the federal stockpile held just 12 million N95 respirator masks, a small fraction of what government officials claim is needed for a severe pandemic.

It’s no secret McConnell held, and holds, Obama in low regard. Obama maintains all the political qualities Mitch can never claim – he’s photogenic, well-spoken, widely admired, charismatic, and has placed his country before his party. The Obama administration had its ups and downs to a large extent because Republicans refused to offer any cooperation – a Mitch strategy.

Yet he was a good president, and people realize that.

McConnell can’t compete in that arena. He isn’t even well-liked in his home state. So he gnaws away at Obama’s ankles, knowing what he said about leaving the pandemic cupboard bare isn’t true. That’s what it’s come to for Addison Mitchell McConnell.

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One Comment

  1. Carolyn says:

    I guess his photogenic, well-spoken charismatic personality was
    In full view when he was helping orchestrate the biggest political
    Hoax in American history against the incoming duly elected President.

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