In Praise of Mitch McConnell
You have to hand it to the guy, he is a proven master tactician in the Senate, both in and out of power.
Mitch McConnell isn’t the flashiest person on Capitol Hill. To put it mildly.
Chuck Schumer regularly beats McConnell to the TV cameras, and Nancy Pelosi makes grand pronouncements as if the Senate and McConnell don’t exist.
He’s been called a lot of names. I don’t even know where “Cocaine Mitch” came from, but its juxtaposition to McConnell’s somewhat dour public personality turns the obvious slur into a term of endearment.
Certainly, McConnell has been viewed by Republican insurgents as the embodiment of establishment Republicanism, and during the heyday of the Tea Party movement, McConnell was a frequent target.
But you have to hand it to the guy, he is a proven master tactician in the Senate, both in and out of power.
On December 22, 2010, I paid tribute to the out-of-power McConnell, In Praise of Mitch McConnell:
This is not the post you probably were expecting from me given my harsh — and as always prescient — criticism of Republicans in the lame duck session. I was screaming “capitulation!” before screaming “capitulation!” was fashionable.
Notwithstanding the lame duck session, give Mitch McConnell some credit for the war which has been fought the past two years.
When Obama took office, Republicans had been routed in two consecutive elections. With Democrats having an overwhelming majority in the House, and a near filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, there was not much the Republican leadership could do.
As I noted before, in my post Some of Our Finest Hours, a variety of players and people fought valiant political battles to slow down the Obama onslaught. Those battles, particularly over Obamacare, created the landscape which led to victories in 2010.
But there was only so much McConnell could do….
Against overwhelming odds in which the defeat of the Obama agenda was not possible, the best that could be hoped for was to get Obama and the Democrats stuck in the mud, to have them advance to places they did not want to be, and to set up the stage for the electoral counterattack.
I’m not a military historian or tactician, but I do understand the concept of prepping the battlefield. That is as true in politics as in war.
For his role in prepping the 2010 political battlefield, for getting Obama and Democrats stuck in the mud of their own creating, and for giving us the possibility of significant gains in the coming years, Mitch McConnell deserves our praise.
Later in the Obama years, after Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2014, McConnell prepped the landscape for a future (and as yet unnamed) Republican president by keeping down Obama’s judicial appointments.
Keeping the Scalia seat open despite the nomination of Merrick Garland was perhaps McConnell’s most significant achievement. That single move led to Mr. Justice Gorsuch filling his mentor’s seat and later to Mr. Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Those lower court judicial vacancies also allowed McConnell, despite unprecedented obstruction by Democrats in the Senate, to shepherd almost 200 federal court nominees to confirmation. Trump is reshaping the federal judiciary for a generation to come, but it was made possible by Mitch McConnell.
Nowhere has McConnell’s tactical skill been more apparent than in the Democrats’ impeachment effort. He let the House do its thing, which is right because he’s not the Speaker of the House. Because of his respect for the institution, he showed Pelosi more respect than she ever showed him. McConnell also must have known that left to their own devices Democrats in the House would screw things up in their venomous rush to impeach. And so they did.
McConnell stood strong in refusing to negotiate Senate trial procedures with Pelosi and in insisting on the Clinton model for Senate trial procedure. That Clinton procedure allowed the House Managers to fill the TV screens for days, but it also allowed Team Trump to make its case.
And in the end, McConnell kept enough Senate Republicans in line to prevent Adam Schiff and other Democrats from turning the Senate into a circus as they had in the House.
Whatever criticism one might have about McConnell being an insider and establishment, he got the job done.
So this is another post in praise of Mitch McConnell.
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McConnell has done two things now that I hold against him:
1. McConnell has never adjourned the Senate so Trump can make recess appointments.
2. McConnell accepted the Articles of Impeachment from the kangaroo court run by the House.
In the first case, Trump is saddled with disloyal and ineffective appointments and can do nothing about it.
In the second case, while the House can run its impeachment anyway it wishes, the Senate can run its trial anyway it wishes. There are Senators that may not like McConnell rejecting the phony articles of impeachment out hand, but McConnell should hold a recorded vote so the voters know who those Senators are.
As it stands, Trump cannot get the help he needs and wants and the Senate has lent credence to Kangaroo courts in the House.
So how was he going to prevent the trial from coming to the senate? How was he going to finagle an outright dismissal or not taking it up? Talk in real terms, not fantasy in which people like Romney, Collins and Murkowski don’t act like Collins Romney and Murkowski?
Speak out and lead. Speak out and lead.
Nice fantasy world. Now how about you occupy the real world.
That’s probably what you would have said to PDJT in January 2016.
Nice try, Trump was not running against an incumbent. Get back to me when you occupy reality once more.
I’m getting back to you, Mr. Krystol.
One of us is in reality. I think it’s me.
Hey TFR? Kristol thinks he lives in reality too. You should study his example for keys to where your own delusion lies.
I think that some, no most, people do not understand how complex and hemmed in the swamp in the Beltway is.
It is amazing how much Trump has managed to do, and to the degree McConnell may have helped Trump, I am thankful.
It is my view that before Trump’s arrival that for the most part our government had become dysfunctional. It was one huge racket. Today there is a glimmer of hope. Lots more needs to be done, hopefully the rate of swamp draining will increase in Trump’s 2nd term.
As I mentioned in my post, McConnell can organize his caucus, tell them what he wants done and then make a motion to vote to declare the the Articles of Impeachment corrupt and reject them out of hand.
And McConnell is done. All Senators who vote against his vote will have their names in the bright lights of the Marquee for all to see and know.
You’re an idiot. If he’d done that he’d have lost the vote, and the Dems would have had their way. And he’d have lost his working majority on everything else too, including appointments.
When the House can run a Kangaroo court and everybody takes it seriously, we’ve already lost it MilHouse, it’s just going to take a while for folks to figure it out.
No, we haven’t lost it. We’re still getting those nominations through, aren’t we? If you had your way we would lose that.
Stablesort, I usually butt head with Milhouse here but he is 100% correct. Butting off your nose to spite your face gets your precisely and exactly nothing.
Hey, self-perceived smartest person in the room, Milhouse — here’s an experiment for you to undertake:
Try articulating your points without perpetualy slinging infantile insults at others. It’s challenging for you, I know.
Millhouse has it pegged. The Senate is generally known as the ‘Hundred Kings’ around Washington. Every single senator has an ego the size of the Hindenburg and just as full of flaming gas. By exercising due caution and ensuring all the judicial nominees are approved of by a tight group of sincere evaluators including the Federalist Society, he has created a pipeline of sane judges without enormous flakes to clog the process.
By arm-twisting the moderates into supporting something they are going to catch hell from the Dems for during the upcoming election, AND that doesn’t matter in the long-term, there would have been backlash. If you have a majority of three or fifteen, it behooves you to strike a balance between providing leadership and paying attention to the wobblies. That’s not just common sense, it’s good government. (and something the Dems are refusing to do at all)
Then you’ve got squishes like Murkowski and Alexander voting with Collins and Romney against the dismissal — and once they’ve voted with the Dems on one Impeachment issue, it would have been that much harder to get them back with the GOP on the vote on witnesses.
Your way *feels* good in the moment, to stand in the way of something wrong and shout, “No!” — but at the end of the day, you would have given us an extra month or two of Impeachment before a 49-51 acquittal. Mitch McConnell has instead gotten it over with before the SOTU and will get a 51-49 acquittal (or maybe even 55-45), denying the Dems their “a bipartisan majority voted to remove Trump from office” talking point.
Let the Dems do their “feels good” screaming protest thing. It’s all they’ve got.
We should focus on getting things done while we’ve got the White House and (a slim, tentative majority in) the Senate to do it with.
About item 2, I can’t help but think letting the Dems hoist the crazy flag for all the world to see is part of the long term battle plan. Let the public see the Dems froth and foam, the media spew venom non-stop, celebrities bouncing off the walls, et al. I don’t think the public is nearly so dense as the MSM makes them out to be, elsewise their ratings wouldn’t be in the crapper and poll after poll show the public no longer trusts the MSM. Hell the public is even sniffing out Fox’s leftward lurch.
We lost the last few elections because the right was asleep and/or stayed home in apathy. Letting the left bark at the moon for 3 long years has woken the right and people are plain tired of the crazy left. I am so very thankful the right is peace-loving law-biding and will fight their fight at the polls. Had our president not allowed the Dems to pummel him – had the right not stood down for a time – would the constituency be as woke and mobilized as we are now?
The way Trump and co have fought this fight, the enemy has been drawn out on the battle field and completely exposed. How I home I’m right that Trump and co. will go on offence this spring – I’ve long felt that “in my bones” – because of it’s proximity to the election and a 6 month scorched earth campaign by Trump and co. will lead to a landslide in November. I hope. I pray. Sound the shofar! Time for some real shock and awe.
You’re an idiot. The senate can’t adjourn for more than three days without the House’s permission.
Also, holding pro forma sessions is now the senate’s established tradition, since the Republicans did it throughout the years when they controlled the senate under 0bama; to now stop doing it because there’s a Republican president would seem very partisan, and there are bound to be a few R senators who would therefore vote against it. But in any case, without the House’s permission it’s a non-issue.
The Senate doesn’t need the House’s permission to take an adjournment long enough for “recess appointments” to take effect. If they gave the President advanced notice so he could be ready to go, even a five minute “We now stand in recess” moment would do it.
Agreed about not having 51 votes for it — thanks to folks like Romney.
See NLRB v Noel Canning on recess appointments
..and the Dems would pull the same crap times several hundred when they take office. Trump and McConnell have an effective process to get nominees through now. It would be the work of idiots to screw that up. Don’t be an idiot.
Yes, it does. An intrasession recess is an adjournment of probably at least ten days, but certainly no less than three.
Your criticism fails to take into account that McConnell is a leader rather than a dictator. He needs the support of at least 50 other Senators to get anything done.
Don’t you know that McConnell inherited the senate majority leader’s mind control ray, with which he can directly control the actions of his caucus without argument?
Well said, professor. Thank you.
McConnell is a fine tactician. Unfortunately it’s not always on the side of freedom and liberty. But he has done a decent job here.
Give credit to Graham and Cruz also as they were responsible for turning the Murkowski and Alexander as I understand it.
My comment on McConnell – there’s room for improvement.
If someone is human there is room for improvement.
We all have room for improvement.
A good tactician knows when to conserve his resources and avoid a battle he can’t win. Frederick the Great (who reallly was a great tactician) said it best: He who defends everything defends nothing.
Mcconnell has nothing to worry. Just ask obama.
Tactician is one thing. Leader is another.
You can buy tacticians by the dozen.
Actually, as is readily apparent, you cannot “buy” good senate tacticians by the dozens.
Very few have the power among elected senators to be as effective as McConnell. Senators tend to think they are a big deal.
Tell that to PDJT and his great team who made the case for the public. Mccommell was a bystander.
President Trump has not reformed the FBI, the State Department or the FBI. He has done an excellent job, but he is not a one man band.
Armchair tacticians are free on the web at any blog.
Real tacticians who can actually get it done in the Senate… I can count him on my left thumb.
What did mcconnell do that demonstrates ‘great tactics’? He acted like we expected him to act?
If Pompeo or PDJT was in charge? Compare.
Im waiting for you to tell me who invented the mind control ray they would operate on the squishes?
Oh come on guys. McConnell is not flashy. But he is very good at playing the hand he is dealt. See Harry Reid for another such player.
Schumer regularly beats McConnell to the microphone. That’s surprising because if you look at Chuck You, McConnell has frequently pulled Chuckie’s legislative pants down to his ankles. Microphone,shmicrophone–McConnell by and large gets the job done. Which is more than you can say for Schumer.
Schumer regularly beating McConnell to a microphone should not be surprising at all.
The most dangerous place in DC is between Schumer and a camera.
“The most dangerous place in DC is between Schumer and a camera.”
I saw that first hand years ago.
A troop of boy scouts was up on a stage, between Chucky and a TV camera. When the camera was turned on, he nearly knocked those kids off the stage in his haste to provide his wisdom to the folks out in TV land.
And that was before he got promoted from idiot congressman to idiot senator. I suppose he must be worse now.
Mcconnell gets undue praise for doing what we voted the GOP in to do? And sometimes?
If you can’t believe that light speed can be achieved, show Chuck Schumer a TV camera in the distance.
Na unfair comparison. He has the advantage of having no brain mass.
We lost our chance at a national concealed carry law because of McConnell. It passed the House and was never brought forward in the Senate
It would never have survived a filibuster. And it might very well not even have got 50.
So? It would have started the ball rolling.
What does that even mean? The legislative process is not advanced by submitting a bill and letting it go down in flames. That makes it harder to pass it next time, not easier.
Why bring forth a bill just for it to be defeated, which then makes it less likely it will be brought up again under more auspicious circumstances? For the puerile satisfaction of standing in front of the crowd and yelling?
The left has done it with great effect. And who says it
Reality says it. You know exactly the ones who would prevent it from passing, so why play games?
I don’t think there’s any question that McConnell knows what he’s doing. But the problem has been that we don’t know what he’s doing.
In any event, getting Senate Repubs to actually do anything useful must be like herding fish.
…….. Herding Cats……….
Fish are brainwashed in school to swim in mobs……..
You don’t know how he got the name Cocaine Mitch?
His wife, Elaine Chao’s family owns an import/export business. Ships like Maersk and whatnot. One shipping container was caught by customs with a significant amount of coke being smuggled.
Now. Just don’t ask me how he became known as Murder Turtle.
Oh, it gets better. He got tagged with the nickname by a guy (and federal ex-con) named Blankenship, who was trying to primary him. McConnell took it and ran with it, tweeting himself in Narcos memes and giving his campaign workers ‘McConnell Cartel’ t-shirts.
I have a question to the lawyers, as the senate trial is an article 2 court, and as it is my understanding that the article 3 court has stated that they have no jurisdiction over an article 2 court.
If the senate had voted to breach executive privilege. The supreme’s would have stayed out of it, and that means there would be no separation of powers anymore. Is that really a possibility?
“If the senate had voted to…”
I’ll answer with a hypothetical question –
If the senate did, and the president told them to blow it out their ass, where do you think it would end up?
I don’t know, it would be a constitutional crisis. What mechanism would be there for enforcement short of full impeachment and removal.
None. Impeachment and removal is the congress’s only weapon.
Not so. The Dems could threaten to hold daily press conferences by Pelosi, Schumer, and Nadler about the evils and dangers of Trump.
People forget that our entire system depends on the voluntary acceptance and willingness of everyone involved to follow the Constitutional rules. That’s why the Democrats attack on civil norms is so damaging, it eats away the foundations of our entire system.
The question discussed here is much like the question, “What if a President were to call in the 82nd Airborne, throw all of the Senators and Congressmen in military prison, and abolish the Supreme Court?” And this isn’t just a hypothetical; this has happened in South American countries many, many times.
That is always the ultimate destination when a country drops the idea of “rule of law”.
The answer is that the 82nd would ignore his order, and he’d very soon find himself under arrest.
It’s the same answer as the one to the paranoids who predicted that 0bama would refuse to leave office on Jan 20, 2017, or the parallel paranoids on the left who made the same prediction about GWB eight years earlier. The answer in both cases was that at noon the armed forces would stop obeying him, and the White House staff would soon throw his things out on to Pennsylvania Ave.
So DJB – they would threaten to keep doing the exact same thing they are doing now?
This is a great post Professor. In my opinion, you need to be an outsider to want to drain the swamp, but you need to be an insider to know how to do it. The appointment of Christopher Wray, who has done nothing to reform the FBI and the composition of the NSC illustrate this point.
I believe it will take about 4 Republican terms to undo the damage of Obama.It seems likely that President Trump will win a huge majority. The GOP should be concentrating on Congress. Retaining the Senate and regaining the House are necessary for President Trump to continue implementing his agenda. The loss of the House in 2018 was an unmitigated disaster.
I’m going to disagree on this one. Nancy Pelosi ramming Obamacare through in the face of public and internal resistance is what a “master tactician” looks like. Dammit.
Cocaine Mitch? Meh.
One could argue that in ramming Obamacare through she put an albatross around the neck of the dem party. If so, does her ramming impeachment through count as a tactical victory or albatross II?
OTOH, Mitch’s 10yr plan is up to 150+ judges and counting.
Well, Va.G., Obamacare may be an albatross to the dem party, but Americans are still suffering under it.
So which concern is the greater?
And the dems are moving gun control in Va., ballot harvesting in California routing the GOP in Orange County, and kindergarten lgbtq training.
Cultural demolition proceeds apace, and we still have national injunctions against presidential prerogatives….
Dems are winning.
could you please expand on how “… moving gun control in Va., ballot harvesting in California routing the GOP in Orange County, and kindergarten lgbtq training” are McConnell’s fault?
It’s a Cultural Thing.
Dems push everywhere, all the time.
GOPes roll over everywhere, all the time.
So, why didn’t McConnell coordinate with Ryan, when Ryan was speaker to impeach the justices responsible for usurpation that was the demolition of our family law and has created the abuse of our kindergarteners?
Dems impeach for NOTHING. We don’t impeach for gross usurpations.
Gutlessness, a Homeric virtue in GOP circles.
I find it hard to believe that Ryan wouldn’t launch an impeachment because McConnell didn’t coordinate with him. I think it more likely that there was no constitutional basis for an impeachment.
Impeaching judges without their having committed a crime is a non-starter. Certainly impeaching them because you don’t like their decisions on the bench is something that has never been attempted since the impeachment of Samuel Chase went down in flames.
Va. G., if destroying our country by undermining THE MOST BASIC institution isn’t grounds for impeachment, then impeachment is as useless as Th. Jefferson bemoaned almost exactly 200 years ago.
If it be construed as a suicide pact, I’m OUT.
What is this “MOST BASIC institution” in your mind? How was it destroyed?
You’re stamping all over the concept of an independent judiciary. Judges, when fulfilling their judicial function, cannot be subject to removal simply because the congress doesn’t like their decisions. Congress has the power to remove judges only for misbehavior. Making the “wrong” decision cannot be misbehavior, because it’s the judiciary’s role to decide what is the right decision.
The House is a very different place than the Senate. Harry Reid with 60 senators got the first draft of 0bamacare through, but as soon as he had only 59 he was stuck.
I am always surprised that many people don’t realize that recess appointments, especially late in an election cycle, are essentially worthless. What kind of loyalty is a recess appointee going to get in his department when everyone there knows he’e going to be automatically fired in less than a year? It’s the Substitute Teacher problem in spades.
Trump’s already found a way around that, anyway, one that is much much stronger than any recess appointment could be. Example: See how Ken Cuccinelli became Principal Director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Recess appointments allow the President to replace a disloyal appointee. This is especially important when there are holdovers working against the administration.
To clarify, sometimes the President has to fire somebody, but the Senate will only confirm somebody just as bad or even worse. In cases like this, the recess appointee can take over a department and gut it to prevent that department from doing harm.
The NSC is a perfect example.
He can do the same thing with an “acting” replacement and not involve the Senate at all – just as he has been doing.
Whenever a Tea Party kind of candidate has run in a primary, McConnell has worked hard to eliminate them. I could be recalling incorrectly, but I believe he worked against Roy Moore also in the primary.
Roy Moore respects the Constitution and he MEANS it. McConnell works against anyone who does.
So great, he had a majority and managed not to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.
When he starts supporting, rather than undermining, candidates for Senate who truly respect the Constitution – including not allowing SCOTUS to ramrod every manner of civilization-destroying pet theories they have, down our throats, I’ll applaud him. Not one minute before.
Thanks to Obergfell (sp??) etc., we now have Drag Queen story hours for children, and many states pushing kindergarten sex education which is code for lbtqxxxxx indoctrination.
When you have mentally troubled people paraded around as though they are NORMAL to our youngest children, you have all the proof you need that the swamp doesn’t give one hot damn about Americans. People like Roy Moore would move heaven and earth in the Senate to restore American’s rights.
Don’t talk to me about McConnell. I have as much respect for him as I do a pile of leaves in my yard.
I hate to disillusion you, but both McConnell and Trump endorsed Strange in Alabama.
Pres. Trump has a habit I’ve never named, but I’ll call it “slimming.” To get through a crowd I walk sideways, with my shoulder first; let’s me get through more easily and use narrow spaces.
But he uses it to reduce drag in general. Or perhaps I should call it getting rid of ballast. Regardless, it appears if he thinks something is introduce drag, he either declines to adopt it or jettisons it. With the media against him, he can only present so large a target area and still succeed, so he reduces it. I don’t always like how he reduces it, but I understand he can only carry so much. Everyone is against him, except voters.
He’s a disruptor, he’s got damn few allies in power, so he makes these decisions. The ones I dislike the most are the illegal alien ones and related, like we still have birthright citizenship, but he’s clearly made a decision challenging it headon would introduce too much drag and too many attacks – so he’s tossed it. For how long, who knows? Etc., etc.
McConnell is just GOPe. He tosses things he detests, which is mostly what would benefit most Americans. 140 languages taught in your school. Too bad. Your taxes are for his pet projects.
So he endorsed Strange because he walks sideways? I think he did it to suck up to McConnell. Prove me wrong.
Roy Moore respects the constitution?! ROFL.
Oh, poor Milhouse, still deluded into — superiority.
If it weren’t for the fact I was born an American, I would decline to form a country with you.
I would NEVER have entered into a suicide pact with you voluntarily.
Have a nice day, Milhouse. ;^)
If, like Roy Moore, you don’t like the US constitution, then feel free to move somewhere else.
Yeah, we’re a lot better off with a Democrat in an Alabama Senate seat. It made things a lot more interesting this past week.
And as much as you may hate it, as ‘unfair’ as it may be, how much better off would we have been in several close votes if Doug Jones was replaced with Luther Strange?
And OT a little, speaking of Gorsuch, (IIRC) in one of his first opinions on illegal aliens, he wrote like a true ivory tower academic, stating to the effect that a law proving that violent crime would mean deportation was too vague.
Would someone please name a Border Patrol officer to SCOTUS?! Someone that has some real world experience and not all these academics. Those in academia 100 years ago would have much more real world experience, now not so much.
We need to face that when making nominations.
The law was vague. There is no fixed definition of “crime of violence”. It can mean whatever you like. And that makes it unconstitutional to punish someone for it.
To quote Gorsuch: “the Immigration and Nationality Act requires a judge to determine that the ordinary case of the alien’s crime of conviction involves a substantial risk that physical force may be used. But what does that mean? Just take the crime at issue in this case, California burglary, which applies to everyone from armed home intruders to door-to-door salesmen peddling shady products. How, on that vast spectrum, is anyone supposed to locate the ordinary case and say whether it includes a substantial risk of physical force? The truth is, no one knows. The law’s silence leaves judges to their intuitions and the people to their fate. In my judgment, the Constitution demands more.” How can you argue with that? What part of it is not completely obvious?
You seem to be someone who doesn’t give a sh*t about justice or the constitution, and want courts to judge cases based on the result desired. That is precisely what judges have no right to do.
Gulliver, Gulliver, tie yourself down RIGHT NOW!
I DEMAND IT!!
Your 860 judicial Lilliputians!
And, it’s what they do every day of the week, and especially on Mondays. Unless it’s the 9th, or those folks in Hawaii, in which case, being Trump’s alter ego shadow, always about 48 hours after he does something.
And Milhouse is like Gorsuch. “Crime of VIOLENCE” has no meaning to him, and like Alice in Wonderland, words… words are infinitely elastic…
But of course!
It has no meaning to ANYBODY. Can you say whether “the ordinary case” of California burglary “involves a substantial risk that physical force may be used”? No, you can’t. It’s impossible for anybody to say. No two judges can be relied on to make the same determination, and the criminal himself has no hope at all of making the same determination as the judge he will end up in front of. And that makes it evil and wicked, not to mention brazenly unconstitutional, to make the penalty depend on such an impossible determination.