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“The Lies Mitch McConnell Tells”: He Knows He’s Lying, You Know He’s Lying, And He Knows You Know He’s Lying

A few words about the pious insincerity of Mitch McConnell.

As you are no doubt aware, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, announced on the very day that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died that he would refuse to hold hearings on any replacement nominated by President Obama. McConnell’s “reasoning,” if you want to grace it with that word, was that since the president has less than a year left in his term, the appointment should be made by whomever the American people choose as his successor.

Last week, after Obama fulfilled his constitutional duty by nominating respected federal judge Merrick Garland to the post, McConnell renewed his refusal. “The Biden rule,” he said, “reminds us that the decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle and not a person. It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election.”

The American people, added McConnell, should have a say in this. “So let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide.”

There are four lies here, each more threadbare and cynical than the last:

1. The Biden rule? There is no such thing. There is only an opinion Vice President Biden expressed 24 years ago as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that if a vacancy opened on the top court during convention season — which is still several months off — the president should “consider” not nominating a replacement until after the election. It bears repeating: Biden never said the president should not nominate or the Senate should not vote; he only suggested waiting until “after the election” to do so.

2. It’s the president who’s politicizing this? In psychology, that’s known as “projecting.” Around the way, it’s known as the pot calling the kettle black.

3. “A principle and not a person?” No, it’s about a person — the same person, the president — toward whom McConnell and his party have expressed such unremitting disrespect the last seven years.

4. The voice of the people? The people have already spoken — twice — in elections that were not close. For that matter, they are still speaking. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll says 63 percent of us want the Senate to hold hearings and vote.

McConnell should just claim he’s too busy arranging his sock drawer. That would be more credible than the excuses he’s given.

The quality of a lie is a direct reflection of the respect the liar has for the person being lied to. That will seem counterintuitive, but consider: You put effort into a lie, work to make it plausible, credible, believable, when you have regard for the recipient, when his good opinion matters or his discovery of the truth would be disastrous.

That being the case, what does it suggest when you put as little effort into a lie as McConnell has?

Indeed, while he has been roundly condemned for disrespecting the president, let’s spare some outrage for the way he is also disrespecting us. Not just in failing to do his job, but also in offering such a transparently dishonest rationale for it.

He knows he’s lying, you know he’s lying and he knows you know he’s lying. But you get the sense he doesn’t care. Why should he? Those who need to believe there’s a noble principle behind this obstructionism will be willingly gulled. As to the rest of us, so what?

That’s not statesmanship. It is not even politics. It’s just contempt — and not only for the president. If we cannot count on McConnell and his party to do the country’s business and behave in a manner befitting serious people in positions of responsibility, perhaps it’s not too much to ask that they at least spare us that.

Tell better lies next time.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 23, 2016

March 24, 2016 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Arguments Both Indefensible And Dishonest”: Senate Republicans Debunk Their Own Supreme Court Talking Points

Senate Republicans have had about a month to come up with a coherent rationale for imposing a blockade on any Supreme Court nominee from President Obama. The fact that they’ve failed so spectacularly to think of anything sound is probably a bad sign.

But the fact that they’re starting to debunk their own talking points is far worse.

A couple of weeks ago, for example, a wide variety of Republicans repeated this line about the merits of a partisan blockade: “This is a tradition that both parties have lived by for over 80 years where in the last year, if there was a vacancy in the last year of a lame duck president, you don’t move forward.”

Today, another Republican senator – who actually supports his party’s strategy – acknowledged that his party’s argument was a lie. The Huffington Post noted:

One of the Republican Party’s most candid senators, Lindsey Graham (S.C.), admitted Thursday a stark fact that the rest of his colleagues have tried their best to avoid: that their blockade of any Supreme Court nominee by President Barack Obama is unprecedented.

 And he insisted that he was going to go along with it, even though he predicted it would worsen relations between the parties and the functioning of the Senate.

Graham conceded, “We are setting a precedent here today,” even after weeks of GOP rhetoric about how they’re just following an existing precedent. The South Carolina Republican added that his party’s current gambit would establish a “new rule” – effectively admitting that such a rule is not currently in place.

The comments were held during a Judiciary Committee discussion about why the Judiciary Committee will refuse to have a discussion about the Supreme Court nomination that does not currently exist.

Graham’s unexpected concession made his party’s arguments look both indefensible and dishonest, but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) went even further in discrediting his own party’s claims. TPM reported:

During a Thursday morning radio interview, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) candidly explained that Senate Republicans would take a different approach to a Supreme Court nominee if a Republican president were in office and replacing a conservative justice.

 Johnson was asked on Wisconsin radio show “Morning Mess” about Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider President Obama’s forthcoming nomination to the Supreme Court. The host hypothesized that things would be different if Mitt Romney were in the White House.

The far-right Wisconsin senator, up for re-election this year, said it would be “different” if a Republican president were currently in office. As Johnson put it, “Generally, and this is the way it works out politically, if you’re replacing – if a conservative president’s replacing a conservative justice, there’s a little more accommodation to it.”

He added, “But when you’re talking about a conservative justice now being replaced by a liberal president who would literally flip the court – you know, let’s face it, I don’t think anybody’s under any illusion – President Obama’s nominee would flip the court from a 5-4 conservative to a 5-4 liberal controlled court…. And so it’s an incredibly serious moment in terms of what’s the composition of the court going to be.”

In other words, as far as Johnson’s concerned, pleasant-sounding rhetoric about principles and Senate norms and traditions is all just window dressing. President Obama is a Democrat, and since Antonin Scalia was a conservative, Ron Johnson believes the constitutional process should be ignored for the most brazenly partisan reasons.

I’m honestly not sure if Senate Republicans are even trying anymore. They made up a “Schumer Rule,” which turned out not to make any sense. They made up a “Biden Rule,” which proved the opposite of the GOP’s intended point. They pointed to a “Thurmond Rule,” which kind of exists, but doesn’t apply here. Republicans made up an 80-year “tradition” out of whole cloth, which Lindsey Graham now concedes doesn’t exist.

They blamed the blockade on the “nuclear option,” which was ridiculously dishonest. They said this is payback for Robert Bork, which made even less sense.

And now a prominent Senate Republican is admitting publicly that the party’s professed principles are irrelevant and the party would be acting differently if the president weren’t a Democrat.

Why not simply drop the pretense and admit that the party is being craven?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 10, 2016

March 11, 2016 Posted by | Lindsey Graham, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Senate Republicans Swat Away Obama’s Outstretched Hand”: A Blockade Unlike Anything Seen In The American Tradition

If we were to pretend American politics operated by traditional rules, we’d have some basic expectations about what policymakers would do in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy. A sitting president would reach out to Senate leaders, some names would be floated as part of a conversation, and a nominee would be put forward and considered.

With this in mind, President Obama hosted an entirely predictable gathering in the Oval Office earlier today. Vice President Biden was there, along with the top Senate leaders from each party, and the top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee from each party.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today, “The president … gave everyone in the room, Democrats and Republicans, the opportunity to put forward their own suggestions for potential Supreme Court nominees. The president didn’t guarantee that he would choose that person, but the president did indicate that he would take seriously any recommendations that either Democrats or Republicans had to put forward.”

It all sounds quite routine – or what would be routine under normal American circumstances. But as it turns out, this Oval Office meeting was actually a reminder about just how abnormal the times really are. The New York Times, quoting one of the gathering’s participants, said today’s discussion was “very short.”

Leaving the meeting, [Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid] suggested that the Republicans appear to be waiting for Donald Trump to be in the White House. “There wasn’t much said at the meeting,” Mr. Reid said.

The Hill also quoted Reid saying in reference to the GOP senators, “They were adamant. They said, ‘No, we’re not going to do this at all.’” Referring to Democrats, Reid added, “All we want them to do is to fulfill their constitutional duty, and at this stage, they are deciding not to do that.”

It wasn’t that Democrats were cool to the GOP’s ideas for possible nominees. Rather, Republicans simply said there should be no nominee – and if one exists, he or she will be ignored, regardless of qualifications or merit.

That this was the expected outcome of the meeting doesn’t make it any less scandalous. The political world’s collective assumptions about how this is likely to play out shouldn’t obscure the fact that Senate Republicans are orchestrating a Supreme Court blockade unlike anything seen in the American tradition.

They are doing so without a defense or a coherent explanation, ignoring the Constitution and traditional norms in the process.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this morning that he and his party will “observe the ‘Biden Rule,’” in reference to a 1992 speech then-Sen. Joe Biden delivered about hypothetical high-court vacancies.

Under the circumstances, it seems quite likely that McConnell knows he’s brazenly lying. There is no such thing as the “Biden Rule,” and if there were, it wouldn’t justify the current obstructionism. On the contrary, in his 1992 remarks, Biden, describing the possibility of a Supreme Court vacancy that did not exist at the time, explicitly said that if the then-Republican president “consults and cooperates with the Senate, or moderates his selections absent consultation, then his nominees may enjoy my support as did Justices Kennedy and Souter.”

If McConnell wants to believe this established a “rule” that must be honored, then today’s Senate Republicans will have to meet, consider, and vote on President Obama’s nominee – steps McConnell has vowed not to take.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 1, 2016

March 2, 2016 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , | 3 Comments

“Please Proceed, Majority Leader”: Their “Three Nos” Strategy Has Telegraphed Their Weak Point For All To See

Only an hour after Antonin Scalia’s death had been confirmed, Sen. Majority Leader McConnell announced that there would be no vote on a nominee from President Obama to replace him. Earlier this week, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said that there would be no confirmation hearings on the nominee. Then yesterday, Republican Senators began announcing that they would not even meet with the nominee. All of this is happening before the President has even announced his choice.

You might be tempted to ask, “what is the strategy behind the Republican’s decision to become the party of no, no and no?” Republican strategist Rory Cooper explained that the goal is to pretend that “we have already reached the conclusion of the debate.” He suggests that to argue the credentials of the nominee would be “to give up a critical piece of leverage in how this is portrayed in the media.” Republicans must keep it “a debate over a process, not a person” and the “story must be starved of oxygen.”

To perhaps test that resolve, an anonymous source told the Washington Post yesterday that Republican Governor Brian Sandoval was being considered. A spokesman for McConnell reacted immediately.

And freshman Senator Deb Fischer demonstrated that she had gotten the memo.

Does anyone else think that all of this reeks of desperation? Josh Marshall sure does.

I think they protest way, way too much about the brittleness of their position and the potential electoral fallout. The emphaticness of the “three nos” isn’t really necessary to convince anyone at this point. It’s to make the point so ferociously, totally, almost maniacally that they can actually end the debate now. But I doubt they actually can.

When it comes to power, Senate Republicans maintain the ability to block any potential nominee President Obama puts forward. But their “three nos” strategy has telegraphed their weak point for all to see…the very real possibility of an extremely qualified nominee. That plays right into the hands of President Obama’s most likely strategy – to pragmatically chose the most qualified person. As Marshall says, from there – the job of the Democrats is pretty easy.

So let’s start with this. Republican senators won’t meet with the nominee. We get it. But I’m pretty sure Democratic senators will meet with him or her and make quite a show of it. I’m also fairly sure the White House will keep trying to set up meetings with Republican Senators and make a show of the on-going refusals. Senate challengers will press it in their campaigns too. And I have little doubt the White House will be sure to arrange meetings with the couple Republican senators who’ve so far bucked the unified front.

The Republicans are placing all their bets on their ability to shut down media discussion of the nominee once their name is announced. Given the importance of this issue, that is a tall order – even for them. But because their base has communicated that nothing – not even control of the Senate – is as important as obstructing this nomination process, its probably the only play they have.

Recently Alec MacGillis wrote a brief profile of Mitch McConnell and why he has chosen this fight. In the end, it’s clear that he didn’t…the fight chose him. This description pretty much encapsulates what the Majority Leader is all about.

The best way to understand Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr. has been to recognize that he is not a conservative ideologue, but rather the epitome of the permanent campaign of Washington: What matters most isn’t so much what you do in office, but if you can win again.

In other words, as Majority Leader, McConnell is in the position of having to draw a line in the sand about conservative influence on the Supreme Court. To do so, the only play he has is the one that puts winning the Senate again in jeopardy. As the President might say, “Please proceed, Majority Leader.”

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 25, 2016

February 27, 2016 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Republican Obstructionalism, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Republicans Are Breaking The Senate”: Imposing A Blockade On The Constitutional Process Itself

As I was making the news rounds this morning, I noticed a tweet from Vox’s Ezra Klein that said, simply, “The Republican Party is broken.” The five-word headline gave me pause – not because it was wrong, but because it occurred to me Ezra could have been referring to a variety of concurrent problems.

As it turns out, Ezra’s piece was about Donald Trump’s relative dominance thus far in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but I’ll confess that when I first saw “The Republican Party is broken,” one of my first thoughts went to developments in the GOP-led Senate.

Consider this Des Moines Register report published overnight.

A White House invitation for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley to discuss the current U.S. Supreme Current vacancy with President Barack Obama has so far gone unanswered.

Turning down the meeting would represent a break in protocol from two previous high court vacancies during Obama’s presidency, when the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as the Senate majority and minority leaders attended Oval Office meetings.

Remember, it was just last week when Rachel sat down with Vice President Biden, and they talked about the process of confirming Supreme Court justices. He reflected on an anecdote from 1987 in which President Ronald Reagan, following the failure of two Supreme Court nominees, met with then-Sen. Biden in the Oval Office, asking, “OK, Joe, who do you want?” The Republican president pulled out a list of potential names and they had a conversation about the prospective justices.

When Rachel asked if we should expect something similar now, the vice president quickly responded that President Obama would absolutely “reach out” to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), among others, as part of a traditional advise-and-consent process.

But that only works if senators are willing to have a conversation.

“Early this week, we extended an invitation to Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy to join President Obama in the Oval Office for a consultative meeting of filling the Supreme Court vacancy,” a senior White House official told the Des Moines Register. “We have not heard back from Chairman Grassley.”

I suspect for the Iowa Republican, the calculus is pretty straightforward: Grassley has no intention of ever doing his duty, so there’s no real point in going to the Oval Office to discuss whether or not Grassley is going to take his responsibilities seriously. He’s already decided not to.

But let’s recognize this for what it is: a scandal. For the first time in American history, a Senate majority party not only intends to leave a Supreme Court vacancy in place for a year, Republicans are also imposing a blockade on the constitutional process itself. As of yesterday, Grassley won’t talk to the president about potential justices, and at least five GOP senators – including the Senate Republican leadership – said they won’t even talk to the president’s nominee if he or she showed up at their offices for a visit.

Nothing like this has ever happened in the American experience. That’s not hyperbole; it’s a demonstrable fact. As Republican politics reach new levels of radicalization, the intensity of their maximalist tactics has arrived at an unprecedented and scary point.

The Republican Party may very well be broken, but just as alarming is the fact that the GOP is tearing the Senate down with it.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 25, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Chuck Grassley, Senate Republicans, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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