MITCH McCONNELL AND LINDSEY GRAHAM

My first thought is making a life’s work out of nothing. And then, making nothing out of a life’s work.

The latter statement is a bit cynical. Jaded. Jaundiced. I admit it.

But as it concerns the last incalculable number of years — and painful ones with respect to the not so new ‘new-normal’ reality of politics and politicians — when will enough be enough?

What will it take for today’s lawmakers on Capitol Hill to become omniscient and honest enough to look at themselves and recognize that their priorities are hopelessly askew and have been for far too long?

They do not emulate our forebears who put their country first and tried to do the right thing. Not even close.

Their brand of government hardly echos the phraseology “of the people, by the people, for the people” first referenced in a sermon delivered by Theodore Parker in Boston’s Music Hall on July 4, 1858 and later adapted by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863).

Parker said, “Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, by all the people, for all the people.” At Gettysburg, Lincoln enshrined the people’s rule in his fervent pledge that this democracy — this government, “under God shall not perish from the earth.”

Well, it sure seems like it’s gone the way of something perishable.

Mitch McConnell is the Senate Majority Leader (R-KY), the senior U.S. Senator from Kentucky. He assumed office on January 3, 1985, making him the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Kentucky history.

Lindsey Graham is a United States Senator (R-SC), the senior Senator from South Carolina, a seat he has held since 2003.

Both have legal backgrounds.

McConnell, with a JD from the University of Kentucky, was an Acting United States Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative Affairs in 1975 and from 1977–1984 served as the Judge/Executive of Jefferson County, Kentucky.

Graham, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law and was a lawyer in private practice before he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1992, serving one term from 1993–1995. He then served in the United States House of Representatives from 1995–2003, elected to four terms garnering at least 60% of the vote each time. He ran for President in 2016.

Strong credentials and impressive thumbnail bios but in fairness, many of their colleagues in the chambers can boast the same.

And history tells us that a few of the esteemed forefathers themselves were not exactly what they appeared to be.

So?

It’s not a matter of what you say or how you say it, it’s a matter of what you do.

“Say what you mean, mean what you say, be bold about it and be done with it.”

— Jeremy Schaap, 8/17/2018 OTL —

Mitch McConnell’s real claim to fame is that he is a world-class obstructionist who thrives on inspiring fear. Never loved, McConnell has relished and over decades cultivated his reputation as the villain.

His dour expression — with colorless, watery eyes bulging toad-like from behind glasses coupled with thin, bloodless lips pursed into a permanent scowl all perched above a full, jiggly gullet and gizzard that would make any turkey proud — reinforces his image of gloominess. He is sullen and dark, likened over his career to “a man with the natural charisma of an oyster.”

His glower is etched in granite. Stepping to the microphones at a Capitol press conference some time ago, he announced flatly, “Darth Vader has arrived.”

But inside the discipline, cunning and fear-mongering of the obstruction-minded McConnell — a man who prioritized vexing the Obama administration at every turn over all else — beats the heart of a last-minute, back door, not-so-grand dealmaker.

(In an interview with National Journal Magazine published October 23, 2010, McConnell said that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” He then clarified in his inimitable flip-flop fashion that “if [Obama is] willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it is not inappropriate for us to do business with him.”).

Ironically agreeing (always with the clock approaching its final ticks) to raise debt ceilings, avert fiscal crises and reopen federal government to avoid default, McConnell has in fact caused his fellow Republicans — and others of course — great ire and consternation. He has been branded a sellout and worse.

Still, the myth of Mitch perpetuates even in the face of a daunting challenge issued by his critics.

Adam Jentleson writing for Politico Magazine taunts rhetorically, “Name one major legislative accomplishment to McConnell’s credit over the more than 30 years he has been in the Senate. (Last minute deals don’t count). You can’t do it.”

Jentleson who once worked for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid surely may have an axe to grind, but he tries mightily to stick to the facts.

“McConnell has never authored a single piece of major legislation that became law, nor has he successfully shepherded a single major bill to passage as leader. Reid, [Nancy] Pelosi and former President Barack Obama were all party to the last-minute deals, but they all have a trove of historic accomplishments to show for their leadership: insuring millions of Americans through the Affordable Care Act, reforming the post-crash financial system with Dodd-Frank and ending the Iraq war, for starters. McConnell has nothing. His failure to log even a single major achievement is without precedent in recent American history.”

Jentleson continues. “It’s not like he hasn’t had the opportunity: Not only has McConnell enjoyed [then] 250 days of unified Republican control in 2017, he also led a GOP majority in the Senate for the previous two years, paired with a solid Republican majority in the House. But under McConnell’s leadership, even bills backed by strong bipartisan support, tagged as likely to pass by seasoned Hill observers and likely to be signed by Obama, languished.”

Jentleson believes that the McConnell myth is rooted in his propensity for misrepresentation and seasoned spin.

For example, “if he simply labeled everything Obama and Democrats tried to do as ‘partisan,’ regardless of the merits, then invented institutionalist-sounding reasons for his opposition, and conveyed those reasons in polished speeches delivered from the Senate floor in his rolling Kentucky drawl, the news media and commentators would eat it up. [They are his primary audience].

He realized that he didn’t have to be a bipartisanship-seeking institutionalist — he could just play one on TV, giving him cover to push partisanship to the hilt in private.”

And taking a steady stream of crisis-driven deals and repackaging them as grandiose legislative achievements orchestrated by him continued to feed the beast. McConnell became adept at manufacturing what would become an impending zero-hour calamity and then reaping a windfall of credit for gutting it out and muddling through it. For the greater good of Republican America.

Amateurish political sleight-of-hand really.

He quipped in 2014, “Remember me? I’m the guy who gets us out of shutdowns.”

Not so.

A few months earlier in fact, it was McConnell who pushed the country into the first government shutdown in twenty years. Yet his quote was reprinted ad nauseum, supporting the myth and portraying him as the saviour, not the destroyer.

In 2016, his brazen act of holding open a Supreme Court seat for Trump to fill and blocking Merrick Garland was more a stab at self-preservation and acted as a cloak to shield blame, potentially targeting him.

He didn’t think that Trump would win the election. “I didn’t think President Trump had a chance at winning,” he said on Kentucky Education Television in December of 2016. “It never occurred to me that he might be able to win.”

McConnell had witnessed John Boehner buckle and ultimately succumb to a Tea Party rebellion and he projected that if he let Obama fill Antonin Scalia’s seat and then lost the Republicans’ Senate majority, he could be hitting the bricks too.

So what was viewed by a stunned liberal America as a reckless, unthinkable and unsustainable act turned out to be a stroke of genius.

Hooray!! A singular legitimate accomplishment for McConnell and his people.

Lindsey Graham, a self-avowed moderate Republican is something of a hypocrite.

Rolling out the Graham-Cassidy Bill in September 2017, the GOP’s last-ditch effort to repeal Obamacare, was the cherry on the sundae. At the time the legislation was condemned as the most destructive repeal effort yet. Draconian. Nihilistic. Extreme.

Not reflective of a “reasonable moderate” position.

Graham was the only Republican on the Judiciary Committee to confirm Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Pro-immigration. A proponent of the man-made influence on climate. In 1998 he was the only Republican to vote ‘no’ on an article of impeachment during President Bill Clinton’s trial. Described by a longtime Obama aide as “a vision of the most bipartisan the GOP gets these days.”

What happened?

Politics. Trump’s presidency has rooted out the moderate Republican congressman. Those espousing such principles are gone. Twitter banter and fake-feuding aside — during his short-lived presidential campaign, he referred to Trump as a “jackass” — Graham votes with the President 89.5% of the time.

He blamed Democrats for the GOP’s decision to blow up the filibuster in Neil Gorsuch’s nomination, somehow ignoring the fact that the Republicans royally kissed off protocol with their unprecedented refusal to consider Obama’s choice, Garland. Oh and Graham held that party line.

Voting ‘no’ on an article of impeachment was one thing but Graham willingly served as a prosecutor for the Clinton trial. Blah, blah blah…

Observers have characterized Graham as a deft navigator of the political waters. At times he appears to be a strong conservative who trumpets the tenets of GOP leadership and extols the virtues of its leaders. And there are times too many to enumerate his detractors claim, that his stance is not reflective of his party’s positions.

Many note that Graham’s left-to-right political trajectory uncannily surfaces to coincide with the timing of elections.

Dan Harvell, an Anderson County (SC) Republican who serves on the state GOP executive committee concedes, “He gets so conservative come election time. He knows that in between election cycles that he can say whatever he wants to say. We just feel like we have two senators in one body.”

Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, echoes the sentiment. “Lindsey Graham is the kind of politician who runs for re-election promising conservatives everything and then delivers on nothing. And you come to conclude that he just didn’t mean it.”

In the meantime, during his 25-year political career, Graham, 63, has never lost an election.

(He ended his bid for the GOP presidential nomination in December 2015, just weeks before the first ballots were cast).

Two weeks after re-introducing legislation known as the Dream Act which would allow undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children to earn permanent residency, Graham joined Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) in sponsoring a bill that would prevent Trump from firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller without judicial review. Reaching across the aisle? He’d say so, but not exactly very GOP-like.

With respect to Graham-Cassidy he has asserted, “It is a simple idea: take all of the money we are going to spend on Obamacare in Washington and send it back to the states and let them spend it…We create as much flexibility as possible to deliver healthcare unique to each state.”

He added that South Carolina would receive more federal funding under his plan.

Who is this guy? What is this guy? Apparently it depends on which way the political winds are blowing.

Mitch McConnell, 76, is worth $22.5 million.

Lindsey Graham has never lost an election.

(Donald Trump is the President of the United States).

Our politics of today. Care to explain?

Enlighten me. Please.

[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in August 2018.]

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