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Bill Straub: Unavoidable to broach this subject again but to clarify — it’s not voter fraud, it’s election fraud

In a week where President Trump (Egads!) traveled to Vietnam — a country he assiduously sought to avoid some 50 years ago — to play footsie with a half-mad dictator who has killed thousands of his subjects, and where the president’s former lawyer served him up on a silver platter before a congressional committee, we are here once again visiting Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch’’ McConnell, as he continues to play members of the American public for so many saps.

In one sense, I apologize for broaching the subject of ol’ Root-‘n-Branch time and time again but it‘s unavoidable. McConnell is from Kentucky after all (yes, I know it’s Louisville but it still counts) and he is arguably the second most powerful figure in the U.S. government, behind only that blackguard who decided to visit Southeast Asia after all these years.

The reason is Addison Mitchell McConnell is a fraud of the first order, a man who for 34 years has skillfully pulled the wool over the eyes of the commonwealth’s electorate as he plays them for so many suckers, simultaneously ruining both the legislative and judicial branches while kowtowing to a chief executive who, as the public is learning, is nothing short of a con man.

So, what has our boy Mitch done this time?

You may have heard about the situation in the 9th Congressional District of North Carolina, which finds itself without a member of the House of Representatives more than three months after the November election because the process has proven to be more crooked than a hound dog’s hind leg.

The apparent winner of the open seat was Republican Mark Harris, who bested Democrat Dan McCready by a comparatively paltry 905 votes in what has long been a GOP stronghold. But there were immediate signs that the election wasn’t exactly kosher.

The process, as it turns out, was fraught with fraud. According to testimony before the North Carolina Board of Elections, a political operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless with ties to the Harris campaign hired workers to visit the residences of individuals who received absentee ballots, collect those ballots and turn them over to him. Dowless then allegedly disposed of those that did not favor Harris. A new election has been called and Harris has decided against running.

So it’s all pretty cut and dried Republicans sought to steal an election.

Wait a minute, not so fast. Root-‘n-Branch rushed to the Senate floor to place blame where it properly belongs – on the shoulders of Democrats.

(Blink, blink).

According to McConnell, Democrats set the stage for the nefarious scheming by failing to play ball with Republican plans to address election chicanery.

“…for years and years, every Republican who dared to call for common-sense safeguards for Americans’ ballots was demonized by Democrats and their allies,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech. “We were hit with left-wing talking points insisting that voter fraud wasn’t real. Never happens, they said. That fraud just didn’t happen. That modest efforts to ensure that voters are who they say they are and are voting in a proper place were really some sinister right-wing plot to prevent people from voting.”

He continued:

“So now as you might expect, now that an incident of very real voter fraud has become national news and the Republican candidate seems — seems — to have benefited, these long-standing Democratic talking points have been really quiet. Haven’t heard much lately from Democrats about how fraud never happens. They’ve gone silent.”

Wow. Now that, friends, is chutzpah. Let’s break this down.

First, this is not a case of voter fraud. It is a case of election fraud. The voters themselves did nothing wrong. It was the GOP operative who allegedly manipulated the ballots. This has nothing to do with voter ID, a favorite Republican talking point, or someone voting in the wrong district. This is about theft and, as I understand it, there are rules against it in this country.

All of this has nothing to do with what ol’ Root-‘n-Branch referred to as “modest efforts to ensure that voters are who they say they are and are voting in a proper place.” Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Voter ID has nothing to do with absconding with absentee ballots. It’s one of Mitch’s favorite scams, the diversionary tactic. It’s the three-card monte game he has been playing with the American public his entire political life and he’s laughing at those voters who keep falling for it.

McConnell is constantly pulling this trick out of his breast pocket like the Amazing Randi. Last year he led the charge for a massive tax cut, insisting despite all evidence to the contrary that it would benefit the middle class and would not – repeat, would not – add to the federal deficit despite the claims of all those irritating economists.

Less than a year later, with the red ink mounting as a direct result of the tax cut – the deficit is expected to reach $985 billion this fiscal year — McConnell sighed and placed the real blame on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Insisting the tax cut was not a contributor.

The man, simply put, is not honest and he treats voters like they’re rubes at a sideshow. He has no shame.

And there are no ifs, and or buts about the effort benefitting the Republican despite his hesitance. It’s simply a fact.

Second, the man keeps pointing to voter ID as the be-all and end-all to assure great elections, even though it was not an issue in this particular instance. As ol’ Root-‘n-Branch very well knows, the individual states can enact their own voting rules and North Carolina has endeavored to adopt the most stringent voter identification legislation in the country. It adopted a law in 2013 requiring voters to show a photo ID issued by North Carolina, a passport, or a military identification card when they go to the polls. It was struck down by the federal courts, which found that the provision targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision,” and that the legislators had acted with clear “discriminatory intent.”

This is the type of law ol’ Root-‘n-Branch is promoting. It was the courts, not the Democrats, who said it violated the rights of African-Americans.

Finally, Democrats are engaged in electoral reform to a much greater degree than Republicans. House Bill 1, the first measure considered by the new Democratic majority in the lower chamber, would, among other things, make registering to vote easier via online or automatic registration, make Election Day a federal holiday and crack down on efforts to take voters off the rolls.

McConnell, suddenly the great election reformer, mocked the effort, called it a “power grab’’ and vowed it would never come up for a vote in his chamber.

Rendering it easier for American citizens to vote. Some power grab.

The man has no floor. He’s sinking into the abyss and taking the nation with him.

Thomas Massie got it right

I have, in the past, been hard on Rep. Thomas Massie, R-SomewhereorotherLewisCounty. Frankly, it’s been well deserved. So when he does something that actually took some political courage, I feel compelled to note it.

Massie was one of only 13 House Republicans to join majority Democrats in seeking to overturn Trump’s effort to shift congressionally-appropriated funds to build his silly wall along the Southern border. Massie, quite properly, determined that the gambit is unconstitutional since the power of the purse lies with Congress.

It took some guts since Republicans generally support Trump in this initiative. In this instance, Massie stood for the Constitution and it’s only proper to give him his due.

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.

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