“The Cynic”: Mitch McConnell And Political Dysfunction

Let's give credit where credit is due...

Let’s give credit where credit is due…

As we survey the irresponsible, unnecessary but apparently intentional explosion of the political process wreaked by the President’s unilateral action on illegal immigration (not “immigration,” and mark any news organization that uses this deceitful phrase as henceforward untrustworthy), it would be wrong to omit the responsibility of Mitch McConnell and his ilk–any it is a bipartisan ilk— for getting the nation to this dangerous place.

The Republican Senate leader, now Majority Leader, is the epitome of the cynical, power-hungry politician who now dominates our governmental processes, and make them all inefficient, corrupt, and undependable. As chronicled in the e-book soon to be published in hardback, “The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell,” in his more than three decades in public service McConnell has perfected the craft of the permanent campaign, careful calibrating positions and policy measures not so much to accomplish any goal in the interests of the public and the nation, but to hold power in the next election. This is the corruption of American democracy, and reporter Alec MacGillis makes a strong case that McConnell has been one of the primary forces making sure the political process only works for politicians. It is all about the game to McConnell, and as McGillis shows, he is as deft at playing it as anybody. MacGillis writes,

“It’s the mindset that all that really matters is the next election, the next cycle. It’s not so much what you do when you’re in power in Washington; it’s what you do to position yourself for the next time around, your next re-election, your party’s next election cycle. That mindset has become very prevalent. It’s bipartisan and it also suffuses the media — but McConnell embodies it really more than anybody else.”

How does a President counter an old hand at manipulation, obfuscation and obstruction like McConnell? A good one finds ways to make it in his adversary’s interests to be collaborative. Another approach is to just let the President’s own party be directed by a politician every bit as cynical and manipulative as McConnell. Hello, Harry Reid.

The ironic aspect of McConnell’s villainy is that the most common complaint about him repeated by Obama’s defenders is false. McConnell did not come out shortly after the President took office and announce that the GOP goal was to make Obama a one-term president. He made that statement, used now as proof that Republicans “never gave Obama a chance,” in 2010, after his party took over House, and it was more equivocal than the legend would have us believe:

McConnell: The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

National Journal: Does that mean endless, or at least frequent, confrontation with the president?

McConnell: If President Obama does a Clintonian backflip, if he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it’s not inappropriate for us to do business with him.

National Journal: What are the big issues?

McConnell: It is possible the president’s advisers will tell him he has to do something to get right with the public on his levels of spending and [on] lowering the national debt. If he were to heed that advice, he would, I imagine, find more support among our conference than he would among some in the Senate in his own party. I don’t want the president to fail; I want him to change. So, we’ll see. The next move is going to be up to him.

Rush Limbaugh, not McConnell, said that he wanted Obama to fail, one of Rush’s more stupid and offensive statements. Rush Limbaugh is neither an elected official nor a spokesman for the Republican Party.

Nevertheless, it is certainly more difficult to govern in the White House when your opposition is less focused on fixing what is wrong with the nation than staying in power, and your own party is pretty much the same. More difficult, but not impossible.


Pointer and Source: NPR

Facts: Factcheck


24 thoughts on ““The Cynic”: Mitch McConnell And Political Dysfunction

      • I’m actually not. The only argument I can see against TL’s is the possible lack of continuity. I don’t WANT an elite class of politicians who learn to run for re-election from birth.

        • No, here’s another pretty solid argument against term limits:

          75% of voters in district X want Politician Y to be their representative AGAIN.

          That’s a pretty solid argument. I don’t see “continuity” as a very strong argument however.

          • No, continuity isn’t, but is the one I have heard the most. But that 75% argument is also one I have heard before. The question is, how long could Huey Long have managed to stay in office if voters had had their way (and he had not been shot)? Or Boss Tweed? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think term limits will limit graft and/or corruption, but it will create some innovation in corruption, instead of the same ole same ole.

    • As if Ted Kennedy wasn’t the poster boy for term limits. I’ll go a step farther – term limits, a ban on close family members running, and a competence test before you can run.

      • Ew no. There are great cases for why those might seem to be good ideas, but those cases aren’t the rule.

        To your first two points, in theory, we want the most qualified, competent people in office. If someone is born and raised in the political sphere it gives them a hand up. It might reek of nepotism and dynasty, but they are more qualified than other people, all other things equal.

        As to a competence test…. Administered by who? Competence is so subjective and I don’t trust government to do it. Competence should be decided by the voter.

        • All things are NEVER equal, but, putting that to the side, I agree that we want the most qualified, competent people in office, but not at the expense of creating a de facto noble class where nepotism and dynasty become the rule. That’s what this nation was created to avoid – here we are supposed to judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Nepotism and dynasty have produced three families already that are either the greatest thing to happen to America or the anti-Christ, depending on which side of the political spectrum you come from. They’ve also, as was the main point of this article, created a political class that is not interested in governing, leave alone public service, it’s interested in hanging onto power by whatever means necessary. At its least harmful, this class gives us cynical folks like McConnell and the Clintons, who just do what it takes to skate through today’s news cycle and this year’s election cycle, but really stand for nothing. Worse, it gives us people like Charlie Crist and the late-career Arlen Specter, who discard principles openly to try to hold onto or regain power, and it reaches its worst now with Obama, who isn’t even interested in governing, only in trolling and bullying those who don’t agree with him. It’s in this nation’s best interest NOT to let things like this get entrenched, and I’ll add one more thing we should add: a Federal ability to recall any official, including the President. There is no reason a president who has lost the ability to lead and the confidence of his nation should be allowed to finish out a term where he can only do more damage.

          Competence is pretty basic: just make sure the person has average intelligence and no major mental problems.

          • “here we are supposed to judge you by what you do, not by who your father was.”

            But isn’t that exactly what you’re doing by suggesting that people be precluded from running based on their families?

            “I agree that we want the most qualified, competent people in office, but not at the expense of creating a de facto noble class where nepotism and dynasty become the rule.”

            Three families does not make a noble class. America’s noble class makes a noble class. Less than 1% of America is a millionaire, and 50% of congress are millionaires. The question is: What is more important: Avoiding the appearance (and reality) of nepotism, or having the most qualified (as the American voter sees it) people in office?

            I don’t know what term limits would actually solve though. Compare Canada and America. Canada does not have term limits on anything. America has term limits on the president, and nothing else (as far as I know). I don’t think Obama would be as apathetic as he is if he were able to run again, for better or worse, and compare the house of commons to congress… We have our political families too, the Trudeaus, the Laytons, and the Fords. The difference? Campaign spending limits, and a multi party system. America has a culture problem that has NOTHING to do with term limits, and everything to do with money in politics.

            • To answer your questions (sorry must be brief):

              1. No, I am trying to prevent situations where someone who gets term limited out of a position gets back in de fact by running his wife or running his brother.

              2. The three families mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. I think it IS in fact more important to prevent this country from turning into an oligarchy where a very few people control everything and there is no upward mobility based on merit.

              3. The Presidency is the only term limit at the Federal level, there are limits on executives at other levels, for example the governor of NJ is limited to two terms, which is a good thing. I would applaud term limits in the legislature as well, to prevent seats from becoming de facto birthrights like now-dead Ted’s.

              Canada vis-à-vis the US we will have to come back to later as I have to hit the road here.

            • Humble, no one is saying that they be “precluded” from running, merely that they don’t get to stay in office for life. Fresh blood, so to spe3ak.

              • It blows my mind the mental gymnastics you have to do to say that, “We aren’t saying they can’t run, we’re just saying hey can’t run.” I get it, term limits. Nepotism bad. What I’m saying is that by imposing term limits you are per se precluding some people from running again, and those people might be the best candidate.

                The question is, are we precluding more competent people than stunning examples of nepotism? And I think we would be.

                • Apparently, I’m not being clear enough. In order to get the job in the first place, they had to RUN. Therefore, they are not being precluded from running. They are, however, precluded from running AGAIN. This does not effect, regulate or rule out nepotism in any way. They are free to hire their wives and sweethearts as often as is already legal, and can be succeeded by wife, son, daughter or Rover, for all I care, but they ARE DONE after the term limit is over. Does that mean we won’t have the best person in the office? I would imagine we will continue to have jackasses like Al Franken elected on a regular basis, but, with term limits, THEY CAN’T STAY IN THE JOB FOR LIFE. Which means that there will be no more Mitch McConnell’s. And THAT is my goal for term limits.

    • The problem with term limits is that, with the increased turnover in officeholders, more power will be grabbed by the entrenched bureaucrats, who apparently are unstoppable and not accountable to anyone for anything they say or do.

      • Your argument would apply, except that we ALREADY have a system of entrenched bureaucrats, because the people currently in power are only interested in staying in power, not in actually governing. Term limits would, I think, encourage politicians to actually do their jobs (unless Al Franken is re-elected…again).

        • Isn’t that throwing the baby out with the bathwater though? The system as we know it doesn’t work: OK. But how do term limits fix the problem of entrenched bureaucracy? A revolving door of faces through certain positions will per se make the politicians more reliant on their bureaucrats.

          • Entrenched bureaucracy happens when politicians become more interested in re-election than in doing their job, such as agency oversight. If you know that re-election is not available to you, it is more likely that you will do the job you were elected to do. Which would include oversight of a burgeoning bureaucracy. Or, worse (or better, depending on your outlook), it is possible that, if you knew in advance that you were going home at the end of your term, it is entirely possible you might be willing to 1) get rid of some of the multiply redundant agencies we are currently saddled with and, 2) be less inclined to take “favors” (bribes) from lobbyists.

    • You’re right, I didn’t spell it out, and I should have. The obvious one is corruption (it’s in the tags), and that would implicate honesty, integrity, responsibility, and especially citizenship (civic duty), all of which I added to the tags following your comment.

      It was worth it if it prompted you to comment after more than a year (since June, 2013, to be precise). Where have you been?

      • Ok I get it, there really aren’t very many true public servants anymore. It’s probably sad that I take the cynicism of politicians as a given.

        Glad to see that my absence was noted, I didn’t realize it had been so long. I’ve been working like a dog lately but I have also been rethinking my positions on issues. I try not to blather if my thinking isn’t particularly clear or if I don’t feel I have anything to add to the discussion.

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