It’s really a tough call as to who’s the most loathsome. Is it Donald? Most days I think so, but there’s a powerful case, growing stronger by the day, that actually it’s Mitch McConnell. After all, Donald is what he is, immutably, and has been from the moment his father stopped warping his little mind. Being angry with him can start to seem a little like having a hate on for a poison toad. The disgusting, warty amphibian doesn’t know he’s ugly. He doesn’t even know he’s a toad. He can’t help being poisonous. It isn’t his fault he eats flies. It’s stimulus-response. There’s no real choice involved, no volition. A big ugly bug happens by, and out whips the long, horrid, sticky tongue, and before you can say “ew gross” it’s in his gaping maw, wings and all, yum-yum. He’s a toad. How can you blame him? He can do nothing else.
Mitch, though, Mitch is manifestly capable of planning his political chess games 35 moves in advance. He schemes. He exploits every little gap in the rules, every ambiguity, every parliamentary trick in the book, to get his usually nefarious way. He’s not a horribly yet essentially blamelessly unsavoury critter acting purely on instinct. He’s a master manipulator of the process. He has a genius for his brand of skullduggery, and absolutely no shame as he operates to subvert every norm and betray every trust, and he’s definitely chosen to be this way. He’s the closest thing the Senate has to Bernie Madoff.
He proved long before Trump arrived that he cares nothing for fair process, the spirit of the Constitution, or honest good faith dealing. He’s the guy who happily offered that he figured his role as a legislator was to serve as an implacable barrier to the President’s efforts to accomplish anything, no matter what it was, and the hell with the merits of initiatives that might help his own constituents. He’s the guy who stole a Supreme Court seat so Trump could appoint Gorsich, a move so brazen nobody had ever before even dreamed of it. He’s the political carpet bagger who tried to repeal Obamacare and deprive over 20 million citizens of their health care by passing a bill the contents of which he kept secret, and had to be voted on before anyone could even read it, let alone debate it in committee hearings, which Mitch refused to hold against all Congressional norms of regular order. He’s the operator who promised a cheering crowd that they could ignore the upcoming nonsense of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, because he was going to ram Trump’s guy through the process regardless.
Now he’s displaying a new and if anything still more despicable trait: cowardice. He’s almost literally gone into hiding since Trump shut down the government. The majority leader of the upper chamber of the legislative branch, the one set up by Article I of the Constitution as a coequal arm of government, claims that he simply can’t do anything about Trump’s power play, so he won’t bother bringing a funding bill to the floor. Imagine that – the leader of the one of the Constitution’s most powerful institutional checks on Presidential prerogatives has established it as an operating principle that he can’t do anything if Trump won’t let him.
This is beyond outrageous. It’s such a betrayal of the vision of the Framers that it almost makes you weep in dismayed frustration. Here’s what the Constitution gives Mitch the power to do: pass a funding bill with a veto-proof majority, wait about 5 minutes for Pelosi to do the same in the House, and force the damned government to return to business. He has the votes. He could march in tomorrow and declare this ends now.
Similarly, if Trump really tries an egregious end run around the Constitutional separation of powers and declares an emergency to build his miserable wall, Mitch could, instead of standing there scratching his balls while the Courts wrestle with it, have a brief chat with Pelosi, and within hours they could pass a veto-proof concurrent resolution to declare the emergency at an end. He could then phone the White House and tell The Donald that the next time he tried an autocratic stunt like that, he could expect his Putin-loving ass to be impeached by noon the next day.
These are the things that not only could happen, they’re supposed to happen. Before Mitch, no one ever would have believed that the Senate Majority Leader would sit there and let any President, of his own party or not, tell him what he could or could not do. Any other legislator in Mitch’s shoes would cram a bill down Trump’s throat just to remind him how this works, and who tells who what to do around here.
I’m surprised that the enraged ghost of James Madison hasn’t paid Mitch a midnight visit, just as the Ghost of Jacob Marley dropped in to straighten out a few things for a quavering Scrooge.
The usual explanation for the behaviour of McConnell and every other member of the GOP is that they’re terrified of Trump’s Base, and of getting “primaried”. In other words, they want to keep their jobs. This prompts one to ask: just how sweet and cushy are these jobs that they’re all so desperate to keep them? What’s so great about sitting in Congress that you’re determined to stay in your chair even if it means abdicating fundamental democratic and institutional responsibilities while being humiliated by an idiot to boot? If it’s power they crave, what power are they exercising by doing nothing and going into hiding to avoid the question why? Is it the perqs? The terrific health plan? Some graft and pork I don’t know about? What?
Maybe it isn’t just Supreme Court Justices who need term limits. Maybe the do-nothings in Congress should be given a lot less to lose if they dare to do their duty, and provoke the ire of a poison toad.
This may get so bad that Mitch actually does something. He damned well should have done it already. Just the possibility that he might not is itself a dangerous erosion of the foundation of American democracy. For the sake of the Republic, Mitch must go.
And oh yeah, Lindsey Graham too.