Green Room

In Praise of Mitch McConnell

posted at 10:48 am on December 22, 2010 by

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.

Cross-posted with updates at Legal Insurrection Blog

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Well if they passed everything they fought off for the last two years…the job he supposedly did doesn’t matter. They need new leadership. He is too hum drum to excite the masses or put a scare into them.

tomas on December 22, 2010 at 11:14 AM

Sorry, not buying it. But I can’t single out this sorry frump of a conciliator because he is surrounded by likeminded imbeciles in a time of enormous and pressing peril and war. We are at war within our nation. If anybody had doubted the fact of this war, all doubt should have been removed after the last month. The ferocious contempt for the people and aggressive in-your-face legislative militancy demonstrated by the democratic left in the face of the public referendum in November was shocking and revealing. Also revealing was the utter failure of the GOP to anticipate and confront this attack, just as they have mis-read and failed to respond to every attack over the last 20 years. We can’t afford it anymore. There will soon be nothing left to defend. We need warriors — yesterday. Cheerful, dauntless, unapologetic conservative warriors. McConnell and all the rest need to go — yesterday.

rrpjr on December 22, 2010 at 11:19 AM

I have to agree with the comments above. Maybe the couldn’t filibuster, but they could insist on having each and every word of each and every bill read. That would have taken at least until the old congress was sent to the dustbin of history.

Before their willingness to be played by the left, I had a tiny glimmer of hope. Now that they’ve given Obama all he needs to sail on to victory in 2012, I am truly in despair.

I’d like someone to tell us what on earth happened? Do they have the modern equivalent of Hillary’s FBI files being held over their heads? Is every RINO in the Republican leadership so dirty they can’t stand being exposed?


erp on December 22, 2010 at 11:37 AM

There has been a lot of speculation this week about why the GOP rolled over in the Senate on virtually every issue. From Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s repeal to START to you name it — the GOP became the party of capitulation. So much so that even Lindsey Graham is blasting the Senate GOP “for a ‘capitulation … of dramatic proportions’ to Democrats and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in the lame-duck Congress.”

In his statement about why the GOP folded like a cheap suit, Graham gives away the game. He says, “I can understand the Democrats being afraid of the new Republicans; I can’t understand Republicans being afraid of the new Republicans.”

As I’ve said for a while, with many people disagreeing, the 2010 election was about moving the Senate GOP right, not moving the Senate to the GOP. This past week makes my case for me.

The Senate GOP is decidedly mushy on many fronts and unwilling for really tough fights except in odd circumstances. The Senate GOP understands that Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Pat Toomey, and Marco Rubio are headed to the Senate as reinforcements for Jim DeMint. They are deeply worried because of it.

Why worry? Because the Senate GOP wants to cut deals with the Senate Democrats and they know that just Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint will be able to force deals much more conservative than the Senate GOP is.

So Senate Republicans decided to roll over on big issues now knowing that next year they will be forced further right than they might be comfortable.

Here’s a golden truth some of you won’t like, but is true nonetheless: Mike Lee and Rand Paul are worth ten regular Republican Senators any day of the week. They’ll fight. And they’ll win.

Redstate picked up on Miss Lindsay’s comment.

Thesis: the votes on DADT and START were an F U to the incoming Tea Party senators by the RINO senators (both lame duck and those still in office).

McConnell had no control over the lame ducks, and he’s not always able to control the Maine Twins. That he kept the GOP porkmeisters in line on the omnibus was remarkable.

I do wish he’d pushed harder and earlier on START, but the RINOs wanted to give Lugar a foreign policy win to boast about when he gets primaried. Whether Indiana voters see that as a win is another matter.

Wethal on December 22, 2010 at 11:55 AM

You guys keep moving the goalposts, but only for the Republicans.

Obama’s big “wins” in this lame duck session are going to be a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that isn’t really a repeal just yet, and a treaty with Russia that can easily be repudiated by either side. This is pretty thin gruel and neither bill was on any Tea Party agenda last time I looked.

Republicans blocked the DREAM Act.
Republicans blocked the income tax rate increase and the estate tax increase due to go into effect in January.
Republicans blocked an omnibus spending bill that included funding for implementation of Obamacare and would have made repeal much more difficult.

These are huge substantive defeats for Obama and huge advances for the Tea Party.

rockmom on December 22, 2010 at 12:23 PM

Have to disagree, rockmom.

The Dream Act wasn’t blocked by republicans but by exposed red-state democrats. But for them it would have passed with some republican support.

The tax rate issue is more complicated, and was enabled by the glaring dissonance of Obama raising taxes during slow economic growth. There was no way to sneak this past the people. And estate death tax DID go up — from 0% to 35%. Republicans can say they fought a higher rate of 50%. Big deal.

Ratifying a national missile defense treaty in a lame-duck session is an astonishing move, and there was no exigent or compelling reason for GOP to go along with this. This was a pure sop to Obama, and maybe the Russians. Just unbelievable. What happened to the threat to read it aloud and delay? It is not easy to undo such treaties. And it won’t happen.

Meanwhile, Republicans have barely uttered a sound as the FCC arrogates control of internet — perhaps the most frightening augury of Leftist control over free speech yet seen. Wait a minute. I think McConnell issued a videotape of protest that he was urging you to “share with your friends.” Pathetic.

Obama and the democrats are carrying on with wanton contempt for the constitution and the people. They’re waging war. But the GOP keeps pulling out Marguis of Queensbury rulebook. We’re playing the game as if it were still the deal-cutting days of Dirksen. BUT WE JUST WON A MASSIVE VICTORY!

To my knowledge, no one in the GOP leadership has even uttered the word “Left” in the past two years; they can’t even name the enemy. How do they propose to fight it.

rrpjr on December 22, 2010 at 12:48 PM

“The answer, I think, is that there are plenty of Senate Republicans who aren’t too comfortable with the class of conservatives who got elected in 2010. These legislators knew they had to stick with McConnell before the election, as you can’t win back the majority by handing the president lots of legislative accomplishments. But now that the election was over, the bills that had piled up were, in many cases, good bills, and if they didn’t pass now, it wasn’t clear that they’d be able to pass later.
The incumbent — and the outgoing — Republicans know that the fact that Republicans will have more power in 2011 doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll use that power to pass sensible legislation. So those of them who wanted to pass sensible legislation decided to get it all done now, even if that meant handing Reid and Obama a slew of apparent victories in the lame-duck session.”

That’s Ezra Klein, but I think he’s right.

Culture is thicker than ideology. It is often noted by Tea Partiers (and before that, what used to just be called grassroots conservatives before they had a more evocative name) that the leadership class, even the “conservative” parts of the leadership class, shares the same basic culture — tastes, preferences, religiosity, manners, mods of thought — with all other members of the leadership class, and that culture is largely liberal in almost all ways.

When offered a choice between their own culture — shared with liberal senators — and a culture to them which looks a lot like The Other, alien and frightening, they will do what human beings usually do, behave in a xenophobic, tribal fashion and align with the people they know and respect, and they respect them primarily because they agree with them so much.

And that usually means selling out their putative ideology, which The Other they’re so frightened of does in fact believe in, and better understand, far better than they do.

And in reacting in a xenophobic, hatred-of-The-Other tribalistic fashion, they congratulate themselves on being “sophisticated” and “open-minded.”

AOSHQ picks up on the Redstate thesis. This was the Senate RINOs last hurrah where they could be deciding votes.

Wethal on December 22, 2010 at 1:23 PM

McConnell cannot be forgiven for not stripping Murkowski of her powerful senate positions.

portlandon on December 22, 2010 at 3:19 PM

rrpjr on December 22, 2010 at 12:48 PM

See, you just moved the goalpost. What was this past election about? START? No. It was about spending, and taxes, and a Congress that had gone mad passing gigantic bills at midnight without reading them and stuffing them with pork. They tried to do it again with an omnibus spending bill, but McConnell held firm and Obama and Reid caved. Now the new Congress will have the opportunity to stop the runaway spending and debt, and to de-fund Obamacare and the EPA. And even before the election, McConnell made the deal with Reid for the initial CR that ran out right after the election, knowing that he would have at least 42 votes and could kill any spending bills in a lame duck session.

Harry Reid tried to pull the same last minute crap with the DREAM Act and failed. Who cares who gets the credit for stopping it? It was a priority for Obama, and especially for Harry Reid, and they couldn’t get it done. Now Obama will be denied another 2 million votes in the 2012 election and that may make the difference in us winning and him losing.

Same with the tax rates. Obama spent the last FOUR YEARS railing about “tax cuts for the rich,” but in the end the Republicans hung together and made him eat those words. Raising tax rates back to the Clinton levels was a very big part of Obama’s entire plan to break American business, and he failed.

I just can’t see hanging McConnell out to dry now because he couldn’t stop a freaking treaty with Russia that doesn’t mean a damn thing. Of course, doing this in a lame duck session is horrible, but it isn’t the end of the world.

rockmom on December 22, 2010 at 3:23 PM

Right on portlandon! Murkowski shouldn’t be part of the Republican caucus when the next senate is seated in January. She was as an indpendent write-in candidate — let her stay out in the cold.

erp on December 22, 2010 at 3:25 PM

The GOP could have said they would not vote on anything important in a lame duck congress.

faraway on December 22, 2010 at 3:26 PM

The GOP could have said they would only vote on legislation aimed at job creation.

faraway on December 22, 2010 at 3:27 PM

rrpjr on December 22, 2010 at 12:48 PM

Never give a Republican an even break, eh Moby?

BradSchwartze on December 22, 2010 at 3:40 PM

Right on portlandon! Murkowski shouldn’t be part of the Republican caucus when the next senate is seated in January. She was as an indpendent write-in candidate — let her stay out in the cold.

erp on December 22, 2010 at 3:25 PM

THIS is what I hope the GOP Senate will reconsider. Seems to me if the incoming new bloods make a stink about the makeup of the various committees, there is a good chance of Murky being stripped of all seats. And to answer the question” “What if she pulls a Jeffords?” So. What! Let her go caucus w/the donks, Alaska will rue having voted for a turncoat.

AH_C on December 22, 2010 at 3:42 PM

I’m extremely disappointed in the GOP Senate performance this session. We’re losing the country with this team.

chalons on December 22, 2010 at 4:55 PM

rockmom on December 22, 2010 at 3:23 PM

I only have one set of goal posts. They have to do with the long struggle against the Left. In each of the cases cited, McConnell et al. failed to take the fight to the Left as they’ve been taking it to us. They failed to alert the American public to this larger struggle, and animate the particular with this larger, destructive and insuperable crusade. Because he has no idea of what it is, and would be embarrassed to say so if he did.

The election may not have been about START, but politics is dynamic, not static; the issues and the terms of the struggle are in constant flux. The November election is already history. Who cares? Obama certainly doesn’t. Look at how Obama reacted to it as opposed to the McConnell and the GOP. He trampled over it with aggressive initiatives and cocksure abandon. He didn’t win all of his fights, but he swept away the memory of his defeat. The GOP, meanwhile, seemed unsure, tentative, almost guilty about winning. They seemed over-eager to prove their pliability and cooperation. They continued to show total cluelessness at the motives of the Left, and were fairly abject before its ferocity.

McConnell is a waste of time, a pathetic, pacifistic placeholder. He’s unfit for the fight, unaware of history’s moment. “Share this video with your friends.” What a joke.

rrpjr on December 22, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Never give a Republican an even break, eh Moby?

BradSchwartze on December 22, 2010 at 3:40 PM

I know the Left and what it takes to fight them. These clowns ain’t got it.

Who’s Moby?

rrpjr on December 22, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Yay MItch!!!!!!

Way to suck slightly less than Harry Reid!

You da MAN!!!!


LegendHasIt on December 22, 2010 at 6:22 PM

I’d have to agree with rrpjr: McConnell does not see the big picture, nor do I have a lot of confidence in Boehner. The Left has finally taken over the Democratic Party. Their goal is Socialism. The GOP should be fighting tooth and nail and conceding no ground.

AshleyTKing on December 22, 2010 at 6:32 PM

McConnel did OK with what he had to work with, a stark raving mad pack of RINOs, but with the new blood arriving I really believe a new leader should be chosen maybe in six months or a year. McConnell is too conciliatory, to mild mannered, to willing to play ball.

Primary every single RINO and every single Senator there over 12 years and start looking now!

Strip Murcowski of all vestiges of power as soon as the new blood is sworn in. Relegate her to a desk by the toilet or under the stairs. Alas the ball less leadership will not, as they have not, well you know, the balls.

As for the House, give Boehner two months to prove he is fit to lead. He is not. For whatever reason the man is an emotional wreck and as such unable to fight in the political arena. For his own sake and the Republic replace him and get the man a shrink for Gods sake.

We can no longer stand for RINOs and Mavericks reaching across the isle, they vote with Republicans or are gone. The leadership must be elected that will discipline and bring the caucus together, no mavericks had better dare show their RINO faces. Let them leave the party if they wish we will replace them with true Conservatives.

dhunter on December 22, 2010 at 10:40 PM

So praise McConnell for losing his own caucus BIGTIME?

All these bills have corresponding COSTS! Benefits too few if none at all!

McConnell is a disgrace as a Minority Leader.

TheAlamos on December 24, 2010 at 7:46 PM

Obama’s big “wins” in this lame duck session are going to be a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell that isn’t really a repeal just yet, and a treaty with Russia that can easily be repudiated by either side. This is pretty thin gruel and neither bill was on any Tea Party agenda last time I looked.

These are huge substantive defeats for Obama and huge advances for the Tea Party.

rockmom on December 22, 2010 at 12:23 PM


TheAlamos on December 24, 2010 at 7:55 PM

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Ed Morrissey on December 26, 2010 at 5:27 PM