With Mitch McConnell, You Can Never Be Cynical Enough

Image result for mitch mcconnell

We haven’t had much to say about the grinding inevitability of Neil Gorsuch, other than to argue that the doomed filibuster was the right thing to do. We should never forget that Mitch&co (especially the sanctimonious Orrin Hatch), nullified the 2012 election while speaking self-righteously about preserving voter rights to determine a Supreme Court justice. It was nauseating, and could be seen as a death-blow to democracy.

The Gorsuch hearings have been an exercise in craven cynicism, with Republicans outraged that Dems even dare question Neil Gorsuch, as if he floated down from Judicial Heaven, untouched be petty partisan politics, and not been someone involved in the far-right since he was born. And they were even more cynically outraged that the Democrats might dare try to question Presidential prerogative. It was as if they all knew that they had no case, but if they shouted loudly enough with enough constitutional offense warbling their vocal cords we would forget how laughable it was.

This wasn’t hard to predict. In fact, right after the election, the Times ran a ludicrous story titled “Hard Choice For Mitch McConnell: End the Filibuster or Preserve Tradition”.

We said then:

Let me answer that for you: he’s going to end the filibuster.

The Times describes him as someone who believes strongly in traditions, somehow managing to reconcile that with his immediately blocking the President’s right to choose a Supreme Court justice, and also the completely unprecedented obstruction of Barack Obama’s entire Presidency. It also talks about how he was dismayed at Reid dismantling the judicial filibuster after their (again) unprecedented obstructions, as if it was a matter of principle, and not, say, petulance at not being able to continue their (again) unprecedented obstruction of the President’s rights.

So yeah, I think there is going to be one filibuster of bill or maybe when Trump nominates Michele Bachmann for the Supreme Court, and Mitch will appear on TV, and say that it with sadness that he has to do this, but the Democrats have no respect for Presidential prerogative, and are ignoring “President Trump’s overwhelming victory, and the will of the American people” (never mind that Trump lost that metric). And then the filibuster will be gone, and the media will say “well, the Democrats should have reached across the aisle!”

And again: all this was easy to predict, which is what makes it even more depressing. Still, I was wrong about one thing. I thought Mitch would do fake sadness, and not fake anger. I wasn’t cynical enough. Here’s what he actually said.

“This is the latest escalation in the left’s never-ending judicial war, the most audacious yet,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said after describing Democratic opposition in the past to Judge Robert H. Bork and Justice Clarence Thomas. “And it cannot and it will not stand. There cannot be two sets of standards: one for the nominees of the Democratic president and another for the nominee of a Republican president.”

What are you supposed to do? How do you respond to that? It’s impossible. You’re left sputtering, and somehow you look like you’re on an equal level of childishness. It’s insane, and it is what is running the country.

Although I admit I may have misspoke when I said that he was faking anger. I think their cognitive dissonance is so fine-tuned that they actually believe that a foredoomed filibuster is somehow an escalation over not even meeting with the nominee, much less giving him a hearing. Like the kid on The Simpson’s who doesn’t know if he is being sarcastic anymore, they don’t know if they are legitmately angry or just a mobious strip o cynicism.

Advertisements

Trump’s National Security “Policies” As Muddled as he is Ignorant

This might just be the permanent clip for Trump-era foreign policy

So, let’s sum up the last few days. Steve Bannon is out at the NSC, a victory for McMasters, but maybe a meaningless one, since he still hasn’t been able to put in his own people, for the most part.  Still, it’s a start, because as the NYTimes put it, it’s the removal of a “political advisor”.

in Syria, the administration first said that it was “silly” to talk about removing Asad, only to sort of reverse course. “Only days after the White House declared it would be ‘silly’ to persist in trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Mr. Trump said, ‘My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.'” Nikki Haley is threatening unilateral action, and seems genuinely emotional following the chemical attack on civilians in Idlib (understandably and genuinely, I think).

And, of course, this is against the backdrop of SecDef Mattis being given far more leeway to fight ISIS and AQAP, loosening restrictions on field commanders and broadening what is considered an “area of active hostilities“. While this will increase civilian casualties, it will also almost certainly hurt ISIS more on the battlefield.

So, overall…are these good things? I think, in a vacuum, you could make a case for each one. Certainly, the demotion of the vile Steve Bannon is a good thing, because it might signal that he has displeased the Fake King. Certainly, Trump’s string of failures is eating at him, and when he lashes out, who knows who will take the fall? But it’s also true that Bannon isn’t merely a “political adviser.” He’s Trump’s worldview shaper, and probably the best person at helping trump find enemies to take the blame for his own personal failures. So we’ll see if Bannon is actually on the outs (which is possible) or if this is just a temporary ego-assuaging for Trump.

Syria is interesting, except that it is clear that Trump has no real plans. He goes entirely on however he feels at the moment. Deciding to get more involved against the Asad government means taking certain responsibility for Syria, not to mention tangling with Russia. Does Trump actually mean this? Or was it just a tough-sounding gesture. It’s possible to see a world where the US bombs Syrian airstrips and planes, and maybe munitions dumps, but that would entail a broader national/regional strategy, as well as a coherent Russian one.

And that’s the main problem here: there is no strategy. Even the devolution of power to Mattis and field commanders, something that sounds sensible, is a product of not having any real foreign policy other than “beating our enemies” (and, in the case of Bannon, creating them in order to forge some civilizational conflict). It is all well and good to be, as Mattis is, a warrior. It might be true that the Obama administration micromanaged too much. But that (arguably) overabundance of caution came from the constant asking of “what’s next? What happens after we ‘win’? How does the world look then?”

It’s clear these aren’t questions Trump is asking, and certainly ones he doesn’t have the patience to see. While McMasters and Mattis are strategists, they are so in a narrow sense, as we discussed earlier.  And all of the Trump team’s plans (including creating “safe zones” for refugees to return) all seem geared toward short-term solutions that have zero interest in the long term, and zero interest in how they balance against other strategies. (Like, for instance, if you have “safe zones”, how do you protect them? What happens if they are attacked by Russia? What happens when they want to return to ruined villages?)

This starts from the top. Trump has no real vision, no real foreign policy. He’s the guy who reads the paper and says “we can do better, I know how!” This is literally true: it’s all he says.

So maybe you can have competent people. Maybe you can get some grownups on board. And maybe certain tactics, like letting loose the military on ISIS, can produce results. It almost certainly will. But when you are a flailing, know-nothing impatient ignoramus, the whole of your administration and policy will reflect that. It’s wrong to ask what Trump’s strategy is. It’s clear there is no method at all.