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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

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. 

All Obama had to do was flip one or two Republicans on an issue, and the filibuster was meaningless.  Yet, McConnell managed to keep Republicans on the same page as to Obamacare (as did John Boehner and Eric Cantor in the House), so that Democrats owned Obamacare completely.

In light of the November elections, the lame duck session has been something of a disaster.  The "tax deal" has been spun -- as I predicted -- as an Obama victory and move to the center.  In reality, it was neither, but perception is everything  in politics.

But the defeat of the Omnibus bill was an enormous victory which will give the incoming Republican House a chance to kill Obamacare in its infancy, and to impose fiscal discipline.  Again, McConnell managed to keep Republicans sufficiently together to kill the bill and force Harry Reid into his one humiliating defeat in the lame duck session.

Most of the damage in the lame duck session came, once again, from a handful of Republicans -- some of whom are leaving office -- not holding to their pledge to stall votes on any legislation until taxes and the budget resolution were passed.  And as National Journal found, Lisa Murkowski was Obama's best friend in the lame duck session; I'm not sure what McConnell could do about that.

But the lame duck session, as dismal as it has been, cannot define the past two years.

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.

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  1. I agree. I was unhappy with your gloomy assessments yesterday. I am quite optimistic but in a rational way which recognizes that the dynamics of politics is such that a big victory does not resolve everything at once. The Obamacare victory was enormous. The tax deal might have offered Obama a spin opportunity but (a) it did help the economy something we need--Imagine if tax payers got the news of substantial tax hikes as the market swooned with people selling off their holdings to avoid higher capital gains; (b) Obama handled this so badly he can't make as much of it as you suppose;(c) the spending part can be cut out in January.

  2. As I read this post, a phrase came to mind that I've not heard, read, or uttered in over 10 years: "polishing turds".

    You might be able to put a shiny veneer on poo, but a turd is still a turd. And this lame duck session was a turd.

    You're right that McConnell did a materful job keeping the Republican caucus together during the regular sessions of the 111th. It appears to me that something happened during the tax deal negotiations in the lame duck that caused him to abdicate his leadership. It's really pretty pathetic when Lindsey Grahamnesty is complaining about the Republican capitulation.

  3. I agree with cf and Mr. Jacobson. We still don't have complete control of Washington. However, if the House leaders play their cards right we can accomplish much. Pass all 12 appropriation bills by March 4 and if the Senate and/or White House don't agree with the smaller budget bills, let them shut down the government. By passing individual bills it won't be shutting down all of the government unless they disapprove of all 12. Then hold a hard line in the conference committees.

    The GOP leadership says they want to roll back the 2011 budget to 2008 levels. That's great if they'll then roll back 2012 to 2007 levels, 2013 to 2006 levels, etc. But if they roll it back to 2008 levels so they can pile their own goodies on top of that then the GOP is history.

  4. Good for you for giving McConnell some praise. He's sometimes been slagged unfairly by the Right (not all the time), and he deserves a pat on the back.

    But I still don't agree that this session was a disaster or a rout; rather, call it a "bloody draw." We lost (or will lose) on START; the tax deal was not the best, but good enough for now (as Ryan explained in that video of his speech); and that omnibus monstrosity thankfully went down in flames. Sadly, the Food Safety (and Welfare For Large Producers) Bill passed. And let's not forget the defeat of the "Enviro-bus" bill Reid tried to shove through died: http://is.gd/jeFcP That was a bullet dodged thanks to Harry's stupidity and McConnell holding the ranks together.

    If Obama gains some credit for the tax deal, the weakening of Reid's position in the forthcoming Senate is some compensation. McConnell, whom you rightly praise, is going to have a strong hand.

  5. After my previous post I came across this article by McConnell:


  6. Professor, would you mind commenting - maybe in an article - about the capitulation of the GOP on the following 5 items in a week:
    1) Tax bill
    2) DADT
    3) START
    4) ME-Chelle Obama's food industry takeover bill
    5) 911 First Responders bill

    I'd be interested to hear your take on all this. Thanks!

  7. In his just concluded presser, whilst he was praised for DADT, the tax bill and the first responders, he was also chided about DREAM, gay marriage, and not closing GITMO.
    The left fully expected Obama to run the table on his entire agenda, particularly with the early super majority, and the fact that he didn't is why I think McConnell deserves praise.

  8. Forget hearing William's story, Van Halen, I want to hear from the sort of guy who opposes healthcare for 9/11 firemen/construction workers and keeping crap (literally) out of my salad. Who could oppose keeping E coli out of food?

    Van Halen meets the criteria for being against good governance, when the good ideas might conceivably help a Democratic President. Just embarrassing for you entire political movement, "Professor."

  9. I don't think the lame duck was that bad given what McConell had to work with. DADT, big whip. Tax compromise, eh, we might have done better after January, might have done worse. 9/11 first responders-was going to get done and Coburn held out to get a better bill. Dems were defeated there. START-was meaningless the day it was signed.

    Let's repeal Obamacare and slash the bureaucracy. 2012 can't come soon enough

  10. I don't think the concessions of the Lame Duck were all that terrible - and by extension I never thought you had a leg to stand on yelling "capitulation" in the first place. DADT? So? The military will adapt as it always does. Here's predicting this will be a "no story" inside two years. The E-6s will take care of that outcome. 35% estate tax against the 55% due with inaction? Who really cares? This rate is destined to be 0% after 2012 either way. Food Safety Bill? I'd like to see Michelle's Deputy Dawgs try to measure the sugar content of my kid's bake sale. Good luck with that, revenuers. Let's just say it'll be good for the business of the blog. I'm with Rush Limbaugh - the Lame Duck has pre-ordained the conditions for a huge conservative victory in 2012.

    "Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive"

  11. Hey Willy…

    It appears yer blog concerning Mitch’s competence; is not being received very well over at Hot Aire…?

    “The “tried and true”, bloody and holiday red, but blue, will have little, if any of your baloney…

    “HA is becoming the Republican Surrender Blog. But hey, nice guys, right? And you know what happens to nice guys….MrScribbler on December 26, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    “I know it’s the holiday season but it appears HA is down to its eighth string of writers….bw222 on December 26, 2010 at 6:22 PM’

    “I wasn’t aware that the day after Christmas was RINO Appreciation Day.
    What is next? A post on how awesome it is that Mark Kirk voted to with the Democrats on DADT to destroy small unit cohesion. How about how awesome it is that Lindsey Graham is throwing hissy fits because he isn’t the biggest traitor to the conservative movement anymore? Blarg the Destroyer on December 26, 2010 at 4:00 PM”


    Happy New Year, Willy…