Mitch McConnell: American Insurgent

This is Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s statement regarding Congressman Steve King of Iowa (emphasis mine):

“I have no tolerance for such positions and those who espouse these views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms,” McConnell said in a written statement to The Washington Post. “Rep. King’s statements are unwelcome and unworthy of his elected position. If he doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive, he should find another line of work.

To answer Senator McConnell’s question, perhaps this is why Congressman King doesn’t understand why ‘white supremacy’ is offensive:

This is a picture of Senator Mitch McConnell receiving an award from the John Hunt Morgan Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans taken in the early 1990s at the Big Springs Country Club in Louisville, Kentucky. The picture is posted on the blog of an unrepentant neo-Confederate who posted it to call Senator McConnell out for his hypocrisy (I recommend not clicking across!). Also, it is nice to see people so enthusiastic about the Confederate Navy that they fly the 2nd Confederate naval jack!

I know a lot of folks have been speculating about what Senator McConnell will or won’t do in regard to the shutdown, the President’s desire to pull out of NATO, the President’s hiding the nature, details, and any agreements reached in his conversations with Putin, the President’s tariffs and trade wars, etc. The simple reality is that Senator McConnell will continue to do what he’s been doing every day since January  21, 2009. He’ll either make a lachrymose, more in sorrow than in anger speech from his desk on the Senate floor first thing in the morning where he telegraphs the norms he will break, the traditions he’ll abandon, and the rules he’ll violate regarding whatever issue he’s speaking on and providing heartfelt advice to his Democratic colleagues about what they should and shouldn’t do or he’ll say nothing and just get about breaking those norms, abandoning those traditions, and violating those rules. And he’ll do it quietly knowing full well that it will get little to no coverage by the reporters covering politics in DC or back at home in Kentucky. And he’ll continue to do it, just as he’s done every day since January 21, 2009 when he embarked on a strategy to bring the Republicans back into the majority in the US Senate, because for the past ten years he has paid absolutely no price whatsoever for doing so. Rather he has reaped great rewards. He brought the Republicans back into the majority in the Senate. He kept significant numbers of Federal district and appellate court judgeships open so that a future Republican president could fill them instead of President Obama during whose administration these vacancies came open. He kept a Supreme Court vacancy open so that both a future Republican president could fill it instead of President Obama during whose administration the vacancy occurred and so it could be used as a political weapon during the 2016 presidential and senatorial elections. And he telegraphed during the hearings for Brett Kavanaugh that he’s gearing up to leverage another potential Supreme Court vacancy* in 2019 or 2020 as a political weapon in the 2020 presidential and senatorial elections.

As I wrote back in June 2018 in regard to the lamentations of Senators Corker, Flake, and Collins (emphasis mine):

Senate Majority Leader McConnell really isn’t a politician or like any politician who has ever served as Senate Majority or Minority Leader. Rather than view him as a politician, it is more appropriate to understand Senator McConnell as an insurgent, albeit a non-violent one. He recognizes no legitimacy but his own. When out of power he’ll do whatever is necessary using asymmetric, irregular, and/or unconventional means to achieve power. And once he achieves power he will do whatever he can to achieve his objectives to consolidate his gains as quickly as possible using any means necessary as he believes his actions are self justifying – that his achievement of power justifies his by any means necessary strategy. This is, by the way, the basic argument of the premier Italian fascist (national-syndicalist) theorist Sergio Panunzio, who delineated the fascist theories for the use of political violence and low intensity warfare in the 1920s. As a result, there is no law, rule, tradition, norm, ethic, promise, and/or deal he won’t violate or renege on. This also makes him an unreliable interlocutor and makes it impossible to negotiate with him in good faith as he doesn’t believe in good faith negotiations.

Since Senators Corker, Flake, and Collins, let alone anyone else, cannot negotiate with Senator McConnell in good faith, because Senator McConnell doesn’t do anything in good faith, if they want to get anything done, then they need to rely on their leverage as senators in a very slim Senate majority caucus to force their initiatives through. This means threatening to and/or actually caucusing with the Democrats. The last thing that Senator McConnell wants is to lose control of the Senate. Whether now because of the defections of a pair of his retiring members using it as leverage to achieve their own objectives or in the mid terms because enough voters want a check on the President to override the partisan Republican advantage in this senatorial election cycle. It is why he’s ground everything in the chamber other than handling nominations, specifically judicial nominations, to a halt. It is why he doesn’t want to do the legally required annual budgetary resolution so he can avoid having his members take tough votes before the midterms. And it is why he’s cancelled most of the August recess under the pretense that it is the only way he can move judicial nominees because of what he alleges is Democratic obstruction. Nominations that only exist because he prevented President Obama from seating almost any judicial nominees during his final two years in office. The Democratic minority has no tools to stop these nominations, regardless of what Senator McConnell says because Senator McConnell in conjunction with Senator Grassley has gotten rid of the blue slip rule and refuses to recognize Democratic senators holds on nominees. Senator McConnell’s cancellation of the August recess is really just a thinly veiled attempt to keep incumbent Democratic senators up for reelection off the campaign trail. Every Senate rule, tradition, norm, ethic, and even law (Congressional Budget Act) has been bent or stretched to breaking or just outright ignored by Senator McConnell in his quest to consolidate his power and achieve his revanchist and reactionary objectives. As an insurgent, albeit a non-violent one, Senator McConnell only understands and recognizes the application of leverage and force. As an insurgent, albeit a non-violent one, Senator McConnell only understands and recognizes the application of leverage and force. Senators Corker, Flake, and Collins have the ability to apply significant leverage and force. The question is whether or not they have the will to do so. The sad reality is the answer is almost certainly not.

Senator McConnell’s calculus, which has been his calculus since January 2009, is that if he’s quiet and boring, even if the political reporters initially cover it, they’ll soon get bored and chase something more exciting. Or something more exciting will happen and distract them.

Open thread!

* I’m expecting, provided Justice Ginsburg completes her recovery as expected and remains healthy, that the administration in conjunction with Leonard Leo from The Federalist Society and Senator McConnell will try to replicate with Justice Thomas what they did in the summer of 2018 with Justice Kennedy. Specifically, they’ll create a retirement and subsequent Supreme Court vacancy during the late summer to early fall of 2020 that the President and Republican senators can campaign for reelection on. Thereby replicating the dynamic that Senator McConnell created and the President leveraged in his campaign that it was necessary to elect him, in this case reelect him, and to reelect the GOP majority in the Senate to ensure that the Democrats don’t appoint the next Supreme Court justice, change the balance of the Supreme Court, and destroy the Constitution and thereby the United States.

Gillibrand is in

Open thread

The floor time constraint of any 2021 agenda

Prioritization will be a key differntiatior of Democratic Presidential and Senate primary candidates. I believe that most Democrats will share significant elements of what is on their top-10 list of areas that need federal government attention in a government that could theoretically have a narrow Democratic trifecta. But the key will be prioritization.

In 2009-2010, the US Senate was able to do the following big things:

  • Confirm two Supreme Court Justices
  • Pass the ACA
  • Pass Dodd-Frank
  • Pass the stimulus (ARRA)

In 2017-2018, the US Senate was able to do the following big things:

  • Pass a huge ass tax cut
  • Confirm two Supreme Court Justices
  • Not pass Repeal and Replace while burning several months of attention on it

Senate floor time is a key constraint.  A very productive Senate might have slots for two big bills, three or four medium actions (such as SCOTUS nominees) and a lot of housekeeping.  A productive Senate is most likely positively correlated with the size of the effective majority.

Right now, there are numerous agenda items that could qualify as a “big” thing from the Democratic/liberal perspective.  The following will be an incomplete list:

  • Healthcare reform
    • Medicare for All?
    • ACA 3.0?
  • Global Warming Policy
  • Voting Rights Act revision
  • Civil Rights Act revision
  • 2 or more SCOTUS confirmations
  • Truth and Reconciliation
  • Constitutional Amendments to make electing a compromised buffoon harder (mandatory disclosure of 14 years of paperwork related to anything authorized by the 16th amendment etc )
  • Immigration and naturalization

Any of these things could easily eat up three months or more of floor time in the Senate.  I’ve listed well over twenty four months of potential floor time activities from an incomplete list if all of these items were considered to be “big” items for the Senate.  That is infeasible as it neglects the basic day to day functioning of the Senate as well.  The Senate still has to approve nominees, it still has to pass appropriations, it still has to make tweaks and changes to the law as circumstances dictate.

So the question will be prioritization.

Candidates are likely to share the same items on a top-10 list but the rank ordering and asset allocation will matter a lot. One candidate might want to spend six months on healthcare again at the cost of doing not much if anything on immigration and naturalization. Another candidate could want to spend a little time on a minimal “fix-it” healthcare bill while spending more time on global warming policy.  Those are all defensible choices.  But the prioritization is very valuable information.


Balloon Juice and the invisible primary

The invisible primary component of the 2020 cycle is upon us:

The invisible primary is when candidates or proto-candidates assess their strengths, test potential coalitions and reach out to rare and valuable resources such as critical staffers and validators. There will be far more people running for president on the Democratic side who will never file an FEC report because the time between waking up in the morning and deciding that the person in the mirror should be in the White House and the end of the day will be quite informational. Quite a few people will have that thought but an inventory of their ability to access resources will show that there is no chance in hell of them even getting to a three way tie for third place in a delegate poor state.

We’re part of this invisible cycle. Balloon Juice is part of the liberal/Democratic extended party infrastructure. This community is part of the wide web of diverse stakeholders that slowly, somewhat haphazardly filters the field. It won’t be perfect; there will be some cranks and there will be one noters. We are part of the filtering process.

Balloon-Juice raised significant money in the 2012-2014-2016 and most recently the 2018 cycle. We generate analysis that is trusted and disseminated to other allied thought leaders and activists. We’ve shown an ability to push pithy responses (“tire rims and anthrax” and “hookers and blow”) to key analytical problems. The commenters and the front-pagers reactions to policies, positions, events and affects are important feedback for a slice of the activist base.

So as the primary season evolves, just remember that the collective zeitgeist of Balloon Juice is part of the invisible primary — not too bad for an almost top-10,000 pet, cooking, health policy, science writing, national security, screaming into the void blog.

Tulsi Gabbard Open Thread: At Last, A Brown Female Democrat Steve Bannon Can Embrace!


I know Murphy the Trickster God likes to torture those of us who say “Whichever Democrat runs against Trump, that’s who I’m voting for”… but as R.A Lafferty once wrote: The mountain has labored and brought forth a mouse. Did it have to be a wall-eyed mouse in a clown suit?

On the glass-half-full side, maybe she can lose her Senate seat while she’s failing to get the (D) presidential nomination!

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The Questions Are Not What Did The President Know And When Did He Know it? The Question Is What, If Anything, Would The President Be Doing Differently If We Knew For Certain That He Was A Russian Asset Or Agent?

Cheryl did us all a service with her post, and especially her tables, that compare and contrast the timelines in the two New York Times stories she wanted to juxtapose. I think there is, however, a bigger and more important issue, really a question, that has been lingering over the investigation into the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign and what connections, if any, the President; his campaign; his business; his associates that existed around, but not in, his business and his campaign; and his surrogates had with the Russian government; Russian intelligence; and/or Russian organized crime in regard to the active measures and cyberwarfare campaign against the US. And this question is not groundbreaking or earth shattering. I’ve asked it here before. Others have asked it on twitter, other blogs, etc. The real question is what, if anything, would the President be doing differently if we knew for certain that he was a Russian asset or agent?

Vladimir Putin, despite being not the greatest strategic thinker in history, has a very specific set of goals. Some are US specific. Some are EU and NATO specific. Some are regional. And some are global. As we’ve covered here over and over since the late spring of 2016 is that Putin wants to roll back US power by weakening the US and by demonstrating that the liberal democracy and attendant values that the US promotes globally is no better, and may in fact be worse, than the managed democracy he’s created in Russia around his authoritarian rule. In regards to the US, Putin specifically wants to enflame political, social, religious, and ethnic grievances, which is why his cyber enabled information warfare targeted very specific groups over very specific issues. Often playing groups on both sides of an issue off against each other. He also wants to rollback US power projection. Specifically he wants the US military and defense posture to stop being expeditionary. Regionally in Europe he wants NATO weakened so he can reestablish the historic near abroad and sphere of influence that he believes are Russia’s due, including his claims on Crimea and Ukraine. And regionally in the Middle East and Central Asia (the Central Command Area of Responsibility) he wants the US out of Syria and, if possible, out of Iraq and Afghanistan – areas that he now perceives as part of Russia’s sphere of influence. Finally, he wants sanctions lifted so that he can leverage Russia’s petroleum wealth, as well as the wealth generated by the various oligarchs that he protects, to further stabilize his managed democracy and coup proof himself so he can remain in power.

And here’s where the key question – what, if anything, would the President be doing differently if we knew for certain that he was a Russian asset or agent? – comes in.

  • At the GOP convention in the summer of 2016, the President’s campaign changed the Republican platform regarding support to Ukraine by watering it down. This change supports Putin’s regional objectives in Crimea and in regard to Ukraine.
  • Prior to the vote on Brexit the President promoted Brexit from one of his golf properties in Scotland.
  • Two months before the convention the President gave his first major foreign policy address at a Washington think tank that is alleged to have curiously strange ties to Russia. In that address the President, as he’s done reliably since shortly after he returned from a Roger Stone organized, KGB coordinated visit to Soviet Russia, discounted the importance of all of America’s alliances, and placing special emphasis on his mistaken belief that our NATO allies, as well as Japan and South Korea, are ripping us off and taking advantage of the US.
  • Since being elected the President has routinely slammed NATO, Japan, and South Korea as ripping off and taking advantage of the US and has repeatedly demanded they pay up the arrears that he believes they owe the US.
  • The President kicked off his campaign in 2015 with a racist, xenophobic, and nativist screed against immigrants. Throughout his campaign and now his presidency, he has built on this to the delight of his base and is, essentially, promoting a white supremacist, if not an outright white Christian herrenvolk vision for America. This vileness has now bloomed into the separation of children from parents attempting to enter the US to seek asylum, the internment of children, the loss of interred children, and the deaths, in US custody, of children who came here with at least one parent to seek asylum.
  • The President has been trying for over a year to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan and Syria. Despite Secretary Pompeo’s address in Cairo this week, as well as Ambassador Bolton’s statements, the US has already begun withdrawing military personnel from Syria and the planning has begun for the drawn down in Afghanistan. In fact the Pentagon, when asked about Ambassador Bolton’s statements regarding US actions in Syria, responded with: “we don’t take orders from Bolton”.
  • Secretary Pompeo’s speech in Cairo was also notable for what he did not note: anything pertaining to the promotion of liberal democracy or human rights or civil liberties in Egypt, in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world. This follows on the US abandoning the UN Human Rights Council (probably because it abbreviates as HRC).
  • The President, supported by a trio of the kookiest economic advisors in Hassett, Kudlow, and Navarro, and in conjunction with congressional Republicans whose only consistent strategy is to always cut taxes regardless of what is actually happening in the economy, has managed to overheat the economy. He has started trade wars with both allies and competitors, which includes both imposing sanctions and having sanctions imposed on the US. As a result of this bizarre combination of mercantilism, protectionism, and supply side economics (itself a retread of a long discounted 19th century economic theory) , has spooked the markets causing a functioning economy to sputter.
  • The US government is now in shutdown. There is no indication that it will end any time soon as the Senate Major Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has abdicated his authority and ceded his power to the President in an attempt to avoid any blame or fallout for the ongoing shutdown. While this too will have significant economic effects because no one in the administration actually planned for a shutdown and what it meant even as they were threatening one, it further enflames the political, social, economic, and religious divisions within the US causing more political, social, and economic discord.

I could keep adding bullets to this list all night, but I think the point is made: the President’s positions during the campaign and the actions he’s taken, in regards to domestic, foreign, national security, and economic affairs, have given Putin almost everything he wanted. The only thing he hasn’t gotten yet is the lifting of sanctions, but there have been efforts within the administration to chip away at and/or redefine them in the favor of Putin and the oligarchs he protects.

And this brings us back to the question: what, if anything, would the President be doing differently if we knew for certain that he was a Russian asset or agent?

And the answer I keep coming back to, every time I ask it of myself or discuss it with those who I’ve been collaborating with on tracking the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign through open sources, is nothing. There is nothing the President would be doing differently. And that conclusion is one of the most disturbing I’ve ever come to in my professional career.

Open thread!

This Crap Again Open Thread: Rep. Steve ‘Pigmuck’ King Will *Not* Be Out-Na… tionalist’d

Glass-half-full take: Iowa’s reached a point of political maturity where King coasting to an easy tenth win in 2020 is no longer a sure bet, so he’s updating his portfolio for the ‘How come white people can’t use the n-word?’ Wingnut Welfare Wurlitzer market. Hey, if the Democrats keep winning social media, Lou Dobbs is definitly gonna stroke out before then…

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