Mitch McConnell’s minor masterpiece
I tend not to buy too much into the whole “the Republicans are just so fiendishly brilliant at playing politics — that’s why the Dems never win (except when they do)!” meme. Maybe it’s because I’ve been thoroughly brainwashed by the polisci prof cabal — those snooty eggheads, always with a reason why everything you think you know is wrong and why the real truth is in many ways far less interesting — but I just don’t think “messaging” matters too much when compared to fundamentals like the economy, party cohesion, voter demographics, etc. You know, the boring stuff.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the political side of politics; and it certainly doesn’t mean that I think all of the game’s players are equally skilled.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for example, is an absolutely brilliant tactician. I don’t know if he has an overarching vision or an ideology any more refined than boilerplate Republicanism — his record indicates he does not — but when it comes to the multi-dimensional chess game that is high-stakes politics, Senator McConnell is perhaps unrivaled.
Simply put, the man is damn good at being very, very bad:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., may have come up with a plan to relieve pressure on congressional Republicans as the debt ceiling negotiations intensify with the Obama White House. McConnell announced a plan that would essentially give President Obama the power to raise the debt ceiling through the end of his first term on his own, calling it a “last-choice option” that would enable the United States to avoid default if negotiators fail to reach an agreement by August 2.
The complicated proposal would accomplish two goals: It would give Republicans the ability to say that they are not for default under any circumstances, and it would foist full ownership of the debt ceiling on Democrats.
Under the plan, Congress would pass a bill granting Obama the authority to raise the debt limit on his own provided he notified Congress of his intent to do so. His request to Congress for greater borrowing authority would be subject to a resolution of disapproval, which McConnell said would likely pass both chambers. Obama would then have to veto the resolution, forcing Democrats to back up his veto by a one-third-plus-one vote in each chamber. At the same time, Obama would be required to outline spending cuts he would approve equal to the amount of his extension request.
The plan would be carried out in three “tranches” – similar to the process by which Congress okayed the release of funds for the Troubled Asset Relief Program – that would force Obama to repeatedly request more borrowing authority and Congress to repeatedly vote to raise the limit in the run-up to the 2012 election.
McConnell cast the proposal as a necessary “back-up” plan Republicans were forced to construct, rather than a complicated political maneuver.
“This is, again, not my first choice,” McConnell said. “I had hoped all year long that the opportunity presented by his request of us to raise the debt ceiling would generate a bipartisan agreement that would get our house in order by reducing spending. That may still happen — I still hope it will — but we’re certainly not going to send the signal to the markets and to the American people that default is an option.”
A word to describe this plan is “cynical”; two words to describe this plan is “laughably cynical”; three words to describe this plan is “consummately, brazenly cynical”; and one word and one not-really word to describe it is “redonkulously cynical.” But I’m not even going to go there.
Because, say what you will about the ethical tenets of Mitch McConnell’s political philosophy — but at least he ain’t BSing you. Or, rather, his BS is so transparently and aggressively BS that it kind of transcends normal political BS and becomes a form of satire (or farce, depending). I don’t mean to go Slate on you; but stuff like this? This is perilously close to becoming petty spin for its own sake. It’s the political equivalent of making a movie about making movies, or an album about albums.
Indeed, throughout the land, McConnell’s plan was no doubt greeted by many a “savvy” “insider” with dumbstruck awe; and perhaps a single tear. Besides these faithful watchers of “Morning Joe,” I imagine only the Galtian geniuses of Wall Street can truly sympathize. And even if the plan, as predicted, dies a quiet death in the House, political junkies and TV villains everywhere will likely never forget McConnell’s minor masterpiece.