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“No Visible ‘Enthusiasm’ At McConnell Rally”: Roughly The Feeling Of A Quaker Worship Meeting

We’re at that stage of the election cycle when the redundancy and cynicism of campaigns really begins to grate on those forced to pay a lot of attention to them–e.g., reporters. Clearly MSNBC’s excellent Irin Carmon reached the limit of her endurance during a rally for Mitch McConnell in Kentucky where it sure sounds like everybody was going through the motions and hoping for next Tuesday to arrive:

The event featuring Sen. Mitch McConnell was billed as a “Restore America Rally.” As rallies went, it had the rough feeling of a Quaker worship meeting. As campaign events went, the candidate’s name was hardly mentioned.

McConnell spoke halfway through the gathering and left without taking questions or staying to see co-headliner Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. His speech was not lofty. “There’s only one change that can happen this year and that’s to change the Senate,” he said.

“Where are our students?” asked one of the opening speakers, by way of rallying the young people. Two hands — one of which appeared to belong to an elementary school-age boy — went up.

Ambivalence about McConnell himself was the subtext — the main point at the rally was the need to beat the Democrats. Matt Bevin, who had challenged McConnell from the right in the primary, spoke about the importance of the race, mentioning McConnell’s opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes. He declined, however, to actually endorse McConnell, or even say his name….

Enthusiasm matters in an election, but it isn’t everything.

Indeed, if “enthusiasm” is the deciding factor in Kentucky, Mitch is in real trouble. But we’ve known that all along. He’s survived all this time by driving up the negatives of opponents and making himself acceptable–and inevitable. It would be nice to see that strategy fail for once.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, Washington Monthly, October 30, 2014

October 31, 2014 Posted by | Kentucky, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Face Of The McConnell Campaign”: Should Chuck Todd Be ‘Disqualified’ For Saying The Midterm Elections Don’t Matter?

A few developments today in the all-important Kentucky Senate race: Bill Clinton is expected to draw large, enthusiastic crowds for Alison Lundergan Grimes in Owensboro and Paducah; Mitch McConnell is on day two of his three-day fake-enthusiasm bus tour (the state GOP party is giving all-expenses-paid trips to volunteers as long as they “contribute to an enthusiastic atmosphere” at his events, according to an e-mail obtained by The Hill); and Chuck Todd continues to defend his now-infamous declaration that Grimes “disqualified herself” by refusing to say whether she voted for Obama.

As you’ve probably seen by now, McConnell put footage of Todd in a heavily rotated TV ad, and, from what I could tell after spending two days in Kentucky, Chuck Todd has become the face of the McConnell campaign.

Now, I don’t know if this exactly disqualifies Todd from moderating the New Hampshire debate tonight between Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown, but the host of the storied Meet the Press and a self-described political junkie has said that it really doesn’t matter which political party wins the Senate. He made that case in an interview with President Obama on his debut MTP last month, saying, A couple more extra red or a couple more blue seats, what’s the diff? Three billion dollars, he said, is being spent merely “to see if it’s Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell that’s in charge of gridlock in the Senate.”

Todd then turned to panelist John Stanton, from Buzzfeed, to pooh-pooh Obama’s argument that party control of the Senate is actually, uh, important:

TODD: You know, Stanton, he was trying to make the rationale for why the midterms matter. And when you have to say, “I know some people don’t think, but they really do matter.”

JOHN STANTON: You’ve already lost…..

in terms of legislation passing. If Democrats keep the Senate, and they have, what, a two-seat or a one-seat majority, or if Republicans take it and have a two-seat or one-seat majority, you still are left with essentially the same dynamic in Washington.

But surely Todd, if not also Stanton, knows that even if no legislation passes (presumably the Dems would filibuster and Obama would veto GOP bills), a McConnell-led Senate would still affect the lives of millions of people. A one- or two-seat majority would give Republicans all the committee chairmanships, and that, as Norm Ornstein writes, “would undoubtedly stop confirmation on virtually all Obama-nominated judges, and probably on most of his executive nominees. And we would see a sharp ramp-up of investigations of alleged wrongdoing, with Benghazi and IRS redux. If you like Darrell Issa, you will love having his reinforcements and doppelgängers in the other chamber.”

Even Politico says, “No one should underestimate the significance if the GOP captures the Senate in November…”

Mitch McConnell, who would become majority leader if the Senate changes hands, is already promising to load up the appropriations bills with policy restrictions that could raise the risk of another government shutdown if Obama doesn’t sign them.

With both the Senate and the House in their hands, Republicans could put Obama on defense on everything from Obamacare to the administration’s greenhouse gas regulations, the Keystone XL pipeline, education policy and spending priorities.

And even with gridlock, McConnell could reach his dream of repealing Obamacare “root and branch.” Robert Reich warns in a MoveOn video that the R’s could use the Senate maneuver of “reconciliation,” which requires “only 51 votes to pass major tax and budget legislation instead of the 60 votes usually required.” That means, he says, that Republicans could win tax cuts for the wealthy and loopholes for Wall Street and pay for them with cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and education. (The Dems used reconciliation to pass the Affordable Care Act in the first place.)

But issues that matter to real people often evaporate in the heat generated by horse-race pundits like Todd. Grimes is “disqualified” for not answering a question (“By dodging the question, did she cast a spell on herself that reverse-aged her to be ineligible for service in the U.S. Senate?” Jim Newell at Salon asks. “Did her incantation strike names from her ballot petitions, putting her below the threshold to qualify for ballot placement?”). But McConnell lies by claiming he can repeal Obamacare while letting Kentuckians keep their Kynect—without acknowledging that Kynect is Obamacare.

As The Nation’s Reed Richardson writes: “When confronted about his specious reasoning in a subsequent Facebook Q & A, Todd backed off his judgment a bit (‘disqualifying for some voters’ was his new formulation), but still defended his over-the-top analysis as reflecting ‘political reality.’ But for all his cynicism, Todd still tries to have it both ways. For, later in the same Facebook chat he said he was ‘sick’ over the fact the McConnell camp had already stuck his Grimes-bashing soundbite into a campaign ad.”

Todd goes into still longer explanations with Media Matters, saying his wording was “sloppy.” It seems like his judgment that it doesn’t matter who runs the Senate was, at best, sloppy, too.

 

By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, October 21, 2014

October 24, 2014 Posted by | Chuck Todd, Midterm Elections, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Stand-Up Guy?”: And Now Mitch McConnell Is The ‘Pro-Woman’ Candidate!

Facing a spirited challenge from a woman half his age who is determined to turn out female voters to defeat him, Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is portraying his role in resolving a sexual harassment scandal in the 1990s as evidence of his feminist bona fides. “I think I demonstrated 19 years ago, in the toughest possible position, how this ought to be handled,” he says, referring to his vote to oust Republican Bob Packwood from the U.S. Senate over allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

In a video distributed by the McConnell campaign, he explains, “I was chairman of the Ethics Committee charged with the responsibility of dealing with a member of my own party as chairman [of] the most important committee in the Senate. After investigating the case and bringing together all of the evidence I moved to expel him from the Senate. And the Senate on the verge of expelling him, he decided to resign.”

Most voters today barely remember Packwood, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was a long time ago, back when Congress functioned, and bipartisanship was real. McConnell tells only part of the story, the part that’s favorable to him, where he looks like a stand-up guy for women. He leaves out the nearly three years he and his colleagues spent protecting Packwood, and his sparring with newly elected Senator Barbara Boxer, who wanted public hearings into Packwood’s behavior. He dismissed her efforts as “frolic and detour,” and warned if she didn’t back off, the GOP, which controlled the Senate, would retaliate with public hearings into any and all Democratic indiscretions.

Packwood chaired the Senate Finance Committee and as McConnell notes in the quote above, was one of the most powerful men on Capitol Hill. He had a reputation as a womanizer, which wasn’t uncommon for men of his generation in the Senate at the time. He was also having an affair with his chief of staff, who would later become his wife, and that wasn’t unusual either. “There were plenty of members having relationships with senior women, but they weren’t doing it with multiples of people all the time,” recalls a woman who held key staff jobs for several Republicans during this era and spoke to the Beast on condition of anonymity. “There were senators in the early 1990’s who fired women who wouldn’t have sex with them,” she said, “and because he (Packwood) knew other senators were doing these things, he couldn’t understand, ‘Why are they coming after me?’”

Sexual mores were changing. The all-male Judiciary Committee’s brutish grilling of Anita Hill over her accusation of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas blew the lid off the frat-club behavior on Capitol Hill and helped elect a record number of women to Congress in 1992, including Boxer. Her push for public hearings on Packwood irritated her Democratic male colleagues along with the Republicans. The humiliation of the Hill-Thomas hearings was still too fresh for them.

Two weeks after the 1992 “year of the woman” election, The Washington Post published a front-page story documenting ten women who’d had unwelcome approaches from Packwood. A women’s group put up an 800 number, and 27 more women responded. Many had worked for him over the years; he had been in the senate since 1969. “Until the women’s groups turned on him, which they did after that article came out, he’d been a champion of women,” says the former GOP staffer. She recalls lawyers poring over definitions of sexual harassment, a relatively new term, educating members and staff about power relationships in the workplace.

“The concept of a hostile work environment was being discussed, it was a new thing,” she says.
The Republican leadership circled the wagons, wanting to believe partisanship played a role. Asked about McConnell’s threat to hold hearings about Democrats, even dredging up Senator Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, Majority Leader Bob Dole said that wasn’t too long ago, “It was ’69, the same year as the first allegation against Packwood.”

A month before the Ethics Committee vote that McConnell boasts about today, he and Dole were publicly defending Packwood. “It’s hilarious to think these are his feminist bona fides,” says a Democratic Senate aide, who doesn’t want to be quoted by name so close to an election that could return McConnell to office for another six-year term, this time perhaps as majority leader. “It’s so long ago, he thinks he can get away with it,” says the aide. The legislative maneuvering once so vivid blurs with the passage of time, and all that McConnell wants voters to know is that he finally did the right thing after all else had been exhausted.

“For McConnell it actually was a vote of conscience against his party and against his friend,” says the GOP staffer. She remembers that minutes before the full Senate was scheduled to vote on whether to accept the Ethics Committee recommendation to expel Packwood, he resigned. Additional revelations about how he altered his diaries, which had been subpoenaed, plus an additional underage woman stepping forward made it likely that the senate would reach the necessary two-thirds majority.

McConnell is an institutionalist; he likes to keep things secret. He is described as having been “appalled” by Packwood’s behavior, but he dragged his feet so long on bringing this scandal to a close that the statute of limitations long ago ran out. “I’m not sure anybody gets credit for a vote that passes with a majority,” says Jennifer Duffy with the Cook Political Report. “Even if he was ahead of his time on this, I’m more interested in what he’s done since.”

The Kentucky Senate race is rated a toss-up, but most insiders think McConnell has it. “He’s not likeable; she’s likeable,” says Duffy. “But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about who do you trust, and they (voters) know he will go to the mat for them on coal. They have questions about her.”

Refusing to say who she voted for in 2008 and 2012 has hurt Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. The coming days will test whether her campaign has the smarts to counter McConnell’s dubious claim that a single vote in September 1995 should inoculate him from all the anti-woman votes he’s taken since then.

 

By: Eleanor Cliff, The Daily Beast, October 20, 2014

October 22, 2014 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Sexual Asault, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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