Tag Archives: McConnell

Breaking News: Massive Cave-in at White House

Here’s how it went down.

When Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, first learned that Trump was caving on the government shutdown and the fight over “wall funding,” he misunderstood and thought that one of Melania’s escape tunnels had collapsed. He soon learned the truth. Trump was backing down! This was mightily puzzling to McConnell who, despite leading one-half of the co-equal branch of government known as Congress, was in reality a vassal to his liege lord Trump and was being left out in the cold. What could possibly be going on?

McConnell ran to the White House to get instructions from the master negotiator himself, Donald J. Trump. Trump was, however, confused by his fight with the Democrats over funding for his promised “border wall” (or, as he now says, “whatever you want to call it”). Trump had repeatedly rejected border security funding proposals that did not include the “wall,” preferring to shut down the U.S. government and thereby show how tough a negotiator he is. Trump’s negotiating principle was: “give me what I want or I will hurt you … or someone else you care about.” You know, like a mob boss. Trump apparently believed that it would be effective to simply continue demanding the one thing the Democrats, in solid control of the House of Representatives, weren’t prepared to give, complaining all the while that the Democrats wouldn’t negotiate. McConnell was at a loss how to help his lord and master out of this jam.

Many theories exist about how to negotiate effectively. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of books have been devoted to the subject. The one tactic that virtually all negotiation authorities seem to agree on is that taking an extreme position at the outset and refusing to budge in order to get the other side to yield by simply repeating the position is the least effective approach to making a deal. Credible books on the subject devote considerable space to explaining how to deal with the “my way or the highway” negotiators because, despite their dismal record of results, there still are many “negotiators” who try the tactic.

Trump is a great example of this. By dint of his past position atop a real estate empire financed with other people’s money, he is accustomed to demanding and getting others to yield, lest he walk away or file a lawsuit (a favorite tactic). Surrounded by people eager to please, it appears no one told him that trying to negotiate by taking hostages and threatening to hurt them and continue hurting them is unlikely to lead to a favorable outcome. Even if someone told him, it’s unlikely he would have listened. Trump has made it clear many times that he already knows everything he needs to know about everything.

So, Trump shut down the government, loudly proclaiming that the shutdown was “on him” and no one else. Somehow, he thought that forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers to either work for no pay (we’ll get back to you sometime later with your money) or stop working altogether without pay was going to force the Democrats led by the newly ensconced Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to yield and give him the wall money he wanted. Maybe he thought, “she’s a woman and cares about people, so she’ll crack. I don’t care about anyone but myself so I can outlast her.” Maybe he just thought she was a weak person, since he thinks most people, especially women, are weak compared to him. Maybe he just had too many hamberders and couldn’t think straight. We’ll never really know.

What we do know is that the hostages in Trump’s power play tended to blame him and the Republicans for their inability to do their jobs and pay their bills. Members of Trump’s cabinet, in their usual fashion, tried to prove their loyalty and come to his aid, by pointing out that federal workers without incomes could simply borrow from a bank or credit union. Another characterized the work of federal workers forced to labor without pay until an unknown future time as “volunteering.” The wife of one of Trump’s wealthy sons pointed out that while, yes, there was a “bit of pain” involved in being without an income, it was for a greater cause and thus everyone should be happy to sacrifice. And on and on and on. They gave new meaning to the phrase “tone deaf.” Future historians trying to explain this time will be stymied by the utter absurdity of the theater created by these buffoons, all appointed by or otherwise owned by Trump.

As the casualties piled up, and the airplanes began to stack up as air traffic control faltered due to inadequate staffing, Trump finally caved. He accepted a short term funding and reopening of the government with negotiations then to begin regarding border security. The same deal he would have had back in December and on multiple occasions since then.

In classic Trump fashion, of course, the cave in was accompanied by a meandering blathering incoherent speech about border security and, finally, a repeat of the same old threat: “give me what I demand or I will declare a national emergency, shut down the government again and build the wall with money I will steal from other parts of the federal budget.” Indeed, in a tweet following his Rose Garden speech, Trump flatly denied he had made a concession at all. He reframed his collapse as a decision to help the

“millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

The “understanding” Trump refers to is only an illusion within his own mind, not something that involves third parties.

To remove any lingering doubts about that, the putative White House Press Secretary, who now has nothing to do but repeat Trump’s messages, tweeted:

In 21 days President @realDonaldTrump is moving forward building the wall with or without the Democrats. The only outstanding question is whether the Democrats want something or nothing. [emphasis added]

That must make sense to Sanders but for the life of me I don’t know what the hell she is saying. Someone I know well replied to her on Twitter with

Really? Trump caved to give Democrats another chance of yield to his demands? That’s your story?

So, apparently, if we’re to believe Trump this time, it’s still “my way or the highway” and this whole three-week suspension of the shutdown is only to help out the Democrats. Or the federal workers. Or somebody.

On that note, the “negotiations” will resume. Now, no one knows whether the courts will sustain a declaration of national emergency in these circumstances. Trump’s record in court is pretty bad, but this is largely uncharted territory. The data on border crossings do not appear to remotely support the idea that there is a national emergency but it remains to be seen whether the courts will simply defer to the “president’s authority” on this.

Of course, one must also wonder why, if Trump has the power to arbitrarily declare a national emergency, he would also have to shut down the government again. One may also wonder why, if he is so determined to build his wall, he doesn’t just use the powers he claims to already have and proceed to steal the money from some other budget item. But logic has never defined this presidency, so maybe that’s just a silly question. Or, just maybe, his legal advisors have warned him that he is on thin ice in claiming absolute power to build the wall on his own order. Again, we’ll likely never know what thought process, if any, actually underlies these twisted mental gymnastics. One thing we can reasonably be sure of – it’s not to help out the Democrats and it’s not about protecting federal workers, about whom Donald Trump gives not one … damn.

The other point to be made here was, I think, very well made in a Facebook post attributed to Dan Rather by the site, Truth Matters. Summarized, the argument is that to bring the issue of border security and the “wall” forward properly, Trump should have arranged for legislation to be introduced, after which hearings would be held, expert testimony collected and, ultimately, votes taken on the elements of a proper modern border security regime. In legislative terms, this would be called “regular order.” But, no, Trump thinks he is a dictator who can simply demand what he wants and everyone will yield as they did when he was in private life running his real estate companies.

The resistance led by Pelosi shows that at least one half of the Congress, under Democratic leadership, understands its proper constitutional role as balance against the executive. Trump thinks he’s going to win because he needs to satisfy his political base and he is blind to the reality that even some of that group of slavishly devoted followers were hurt by and disapprove of the government shutdown Trump directed and that he continues to threaten.

So, the negotiations will resume with Trump’s threat on the table: “do it my way or I will simply go around you.” This is not a formula for success and there is no reason for Democrats in the House to yield to this type of threat from the president. It is not in fact the Democrats who don’t want to negotiate – it is Trump who still insists “you will do it may way or else.”

I am not prescient and will not try to predict how this is going to come out, but it’s hard to be optimistic when one party takes the position of a 5-year old who won’t eat dinner unless he’s guaranteed two desserts.

When last seen, Mitch McConnell was seen standing in the cold in front of the White House holding a note addressed to the president. It read “My liege, what, oh what, do you want me to do now?”

Note: some of the above is satire but it’s impossible to know which part. It could all be true.

 

 

Laughing at Jeff Sessions

AHAHAHAHAHAHA … there, I am laughing out loud, really LOUD, at Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the Attorney General of the United States. You know, the one with skin so thin you can see what passes for blood coursing through his arteries. You may recall that Capitol police arrested a woman during Sessions confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate for laughing at Sessions’ remark about, get this, treating all Americans equally under the law. That’s a good one. No surprise that the lady laughed out loud. The charges were thrown out due to faulty jury instructions but Sessions is determined to try the woman a second time.

Dana Milbank wrote a wonderful column about this in today’s Washington Post, entitled “Our laughable attorney general.”  http://wapo.st/2f3PrKL. So, here I go again… AHAHAHAHAHA, laughing out loud at the Attorney General. Come and get me, Jeff; I dare you. I’m laughing at you, Jeff. It’s okay if I call you Jeff, isn’t it? Your feelings won’t be hurt? I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings, Jeff. You might have me arrested for assault on your feelings.

I recall that many years ago, Senator William Scott of Virginia called a press conference to deny a published report that he was the dumbest person in Congress. See http://wapo.st/2wGJTyO.

That was pretty funny. But I think Sessions is even funnier. He apparently intends to bring the full legal weight of the United States Government to bear on this woman until she is either convicted of a laughing offense or confesses her guilt of something that will make Sessions feel like a real man. “Wipe that smile off your face, lady, or I’ll wipe it off for you.” Sounds like a line from a 1950s B movie. “Nobody laughs at the Attorney General and gets away with it. Nobody.”

I am so glad the AG and the Justice Department have time and resources for this activity.

Of course, in one way Sessions has done everyone a favor. He has revealed why there is no humor in the Congress. Can you imagine what would happen if the decorum of the Senate were blemished by laughter every time something monumentally stupid was spoken on the Senate floor? They’d never get anything done. On the other hand, under the leadership ofMitch McConnell, the Senator from Kentucky, they seem to have managed to get nothing done without a single overt guffaw being heard. Maybe the Republican majority has managed to swallow those giggles like they have choked down their integrity and dignity. Just as with humor, no gagging is permitted in the Senate.

Footnote: For more potential parallels between former Senator Scott and current AG Sessions, see the Wikipedia piece on Scott. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_L._Scott. And your day cannot be complete without seeing the Scott quotes in the Chicago Tribune at http://trib.in/2xaMJgX. You just can’t make this stuff up.

 

Mitch McConnell – Hypocrite for the Ages

In the April 6 edition of the Washington Post, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote “Reaping what they have sown,” devoted to blaming the Democratic Party in Congress for, in effect, forcing Republicans to use the “nuclear option” to stop the filibuster of the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch. http://wapo.st/2oVsKeP. McConnell called the Democratic filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination an “unprecedented attack on the traditions of the Senate.”

Not one word of McConnell’s 753-word “the devil made me do it” disquisition mentions the refusal of the Republican Party last year to even given a hearing, let alone a Senate vote, on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the seat that has now gone to Gorsuch.

Upon close examination, the real thrust of the piece is not to poke the Democrats about resisting Gorsuch per se. It is rather to say to Democrats, and everyone else watching: “we beat you on this one and now you should start cooperating with us and the Trump agenda instead of your “blind “resistance” to anything and everything this president proposes.”

Ah, yes, it’s time to stop resisting and start cooperating. See my blog post immediately preceding this one, entitled “On Tyranny-Read It Now.” McConnell’s call for “cooperation” is precisely what Timothy Snyder warns against in his prescient treatment of the sources of authoritarianism.

McConnell’s piece ends with this:

“Perhaps this is the moment Democrats will begin again to listen the many Americans – the people who sent us here – who want real solutions so we can work together to help move our country forward.”

Consistently with the rest of his thoughts, McConnell overlooks the fact that while Trump won the Electoral College vote, the majority of American’s voted for someone else. There is no case for listening to the Republican minority now. Indeed, as the former Democrats who flipped for Trump continue to become aware of how the Trump/McConnell/Ryan agenda is going to actually defeat their interests, it is reasonable to expect, by 2018 mid-terms, a significant shift away from the party that proposes to gut the federal government, reverse the environmental rules that have resulted in massive improvements in air and water quality and … on and on. Mr. McConnell is feeling pretty smug right now so he can, with a straight face, now call on Democrats to “cooperate.”

As long as the President of the United States continues to lie about the Russia connection (see “White House assertions on intelligence and Russia” in Fact Checker, Washington Post print edition, Sunday, April 9, 2017, inexplicably not online, at A2), promotes health legislation that reduces coverage for millions, supports desecration the environment and wanton killing of animals on federal land, to name just a few, there can be no “cooperation.” McConnell and the Republican Party’s hypocrisy is on full display now as the administration careens from one side of the listing ship of state to the other, with no principled leadership or strategy. So, NO, Mr. McConnell, there will be no “cooperation.”