Mitch McConnell and the Banality of Amorality
Plus: Why the Dems have to move to the center, Chapter 18,898
"I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius,' Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine -- of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that's wonderful."
"They say, 'Trump said Putin's smart.' I mean, he's taking over a country for two dollars' worth of sanctions. I'd say that's pretty smart. He's taking over a country -- really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in." — Donald J. Trump, last month.
We’ll get to Mitch in a minute, and I know it’s the weekend, but don’t look away.
BUCHA, Ukraine — The name of this city is already synonymous with the month-long carnage that Russian soldiers perpetrated here.
But the scale of the killings and the depravity with which they were committed are only just becoming apparent as police, local officials and regular citizens start the grim task of clearing Bucha of the hundreds of corpses decomposing on streets and in parks, apartment buildings and other locations.
For once, the United Nations gets it right: “U.N. suspends Russia from human rights body, Moscow then quits.”
“West Moves to Curb Russian Coal and Trade Over Ukraine War.” But it is still buying gas and oil.
A warning from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman:
Mitch McConnell’s Moral Red Lines
This is what Hannah Arendt meant when she wrote about the “banality of evil.”
But with apologies to Ms. Arendt, behold the Banality of Amorality:
“So, moral red lines, where do you draw them?” Swan pressed again, as the interview struck a more serious tone.
“Um, I am perfectly comfortable with the way I have conducted my political career and I’d be happy to respond to any specificity to the term, what was it?” responded McConnell.
“Moral red lines,” Swan replied.
“Well, I am very comfortable with my moral red lines,” added McConnell.
“Let me give you one specific,” continued Swan who then asked McConnell about his “extraordinary speech” in which McConnell “spoke very powerfully against the most powerful figure in your party” – referencing McConnell’s February 2021 condemnation of Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Swan quoted McConnell’s remarks that day — which included saying Trump was “morally responsible” for the Jan. 6 riot and committed a “disgraceful dereliction of duty.”
He asked him, “How do go from saying that to two weeks later saying you would absolutely support Donald Trump if he is the Republican nominee in 2024?”
McConnell responded by saying he believes he has an obligation to support the nominee of his party.
Swan pushed McConnell, saying he can’t understand the “inconsistency” in those positions.
Exit take from my colleague Tim Miller: “The best part of this exchange is that @LeaderMcConnell seems to be genuinely befuddled that one might expect him to have a moral red line. He literally can't come up with anything. Acts as if that's a gotcha question. Because for him it is, since he has none.”
Why Democrats need to move to the center, Chapter 18,898
After Democrats lost the Virginia governor’s race, I wrote about the question they should be asking themselves:
The Republican Party — populated with cranks, crooks, clowns, bigots and deranged conspiracy theorists — has spent five years alienating women, minorities and young voters.
The party — and its entire leadership from the grassroots to Congress — remains in thrall to a disgraced, defeated, one-term president, who is reduced to issuing increasingly crazed screeds from his exile in Mar-a-Lago. Every day we learn more about Republican complicity in the events of Jan. 6 and their attempts to whitewash an attempted coup.
The GOP is the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz and Louie Gohmert.
Sane Republicans are heading for the exits, even as assaults on democratic norms have become a litmus test of loyalty.
So, now, Democrats need to ask themselves this rather urgent question:
Why can’t we beat these guys?
The urgency of the question has grown over the last few months, but I regret to tell you that the Chorus of Denial seems to be getting louder, despite polls suggesting a possible midterm wipeout this November.
So, we turn once again to Ruy Teixeira, for yet another Truth Bomb and Reality check.
“What do you get when you combine the Democrats’ Hispanic voter problem with the Democrats’ working class voter problem?” asks the veteran progressive analyst. “Something like the Democrats’ Nevada problem.”
Embattled Democratic Senator Cortez Masto, he writes, “is desperately trying to define herself in different terms, releasing ads emphasizing themes of family, patriotism, small business and the struggling working class.
“We shall see if she succeeds but she clearly needs all the help she can get.”
In this regard one has to wonder about the recent administration decision rescinding the Covid-era Title 42 regulation, which has facilitated turning away migrants at the border. This will predictably lead to a surge at the border with no real plan of how to contain it. All four vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbents—Mark Kelly (AZ), Raphael Warnock (GA), Maggie Hassan (NH) and, very definitely, Cortez Masto—have vigorously opposed this move. She pointedly remarked:
This is the wrong way to do this and it will leave the administration unprepared for a surge at the border. We should be working to fix our immigration system by investing in border security and treating immigrant families with dignity. Instead, the administration is acting without a detailed plan.
With friends like these….It would appear that the upper reaches of the Democratic party have still not absorbed the extent of their party’s Hispanic and working class voter problems. Perhaps they are still high on the fumes of rising diversity happy talk. The 2022 election seems likely to bring them back down to earth and the Nevada race could very definitely be part of that reality check.
As we were saying…
On Wednesday’s podcast, Josh Kraushaar and I also discussed the issue of bail reform, and how it might effect Democratic prospects in the mid-terms.
Josh mentioned his recent column on the Wisconsin senate race.
Wisconsin polling shows that [Mandela] Barnes is still largely undefined in the eyes of Wisconsin voters -- well over half respondents in a February Marquette Law poll hadn’t heard of him -- but his decision to embrace controversial causes is likely to damage his general election prospects if he’s the Democratic nominee.
His continued support of ending cash bail for criminals is politically mystifying, especially coming after the revelation that the Waukesha Christmas parade murderer had been previously released on a mere $1,000 bail five days before mowing down parade-goers.
How toxic is the bail issue? It has become a flash point in San Francisco where the progressive DA faces a recall election, and in New York, where violent crime has spiked. In February, NYC’s former police commissioner William Bratton co-authored a blistering op-ed about the consequences of the “reform.”
The bail reform was predictably followed by a sharp increase in the percentage of violent felony arrests involving suspects with open cases. According to data released by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, 19.5% of total arrests and 20.2% of violent felony arrests were of suspects with open cases in 2019. New York’s bail reform went into effect the following year, and those rates jumped to 24.4% and 25.1%, respectively. Violent crime in many of the city’s precincts also rose dramatically.
Just yesterday, after pressure from the state’s new centrist Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul, New York’s Democratic-controlled legislature agreed to toughen the bail law.
But Wisconsin’s Barnes remains all-in. Via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Barnes, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, once sponsored a bill to end cash bail in the state.
The 2016 measure would have barred judges from using the "nature, number and gravity" of the charges as the sole reason to hold a defendant before trial. Instead, a judge would be required to release a defendant unless there was "clear and convincing evidence" that a defendant was a flight risk or a danger to an individual or a witness.
In a statement, Barnes' campaign said he remains firmly in support of his proposed legislation, which didn't make it out of committee….
If elected to the U.S. Senate later this year, Barnes would even support a bill to eliminate the use of cash bail nationwide, his aide said. The federal justice system does not use cash bail as a condition of a defendant's pre-trial release.
"The lieutenant governor believes we should decide who is imprisoned before their trial begins based on how much of a risk they pose to the community, not on how much money they have," Maddy McDaniel, spokeswoman for Barnes' campaign, said in response to a series of questions from the Journal Sentinel.
But that's not all.
The Milwaukee Democrat also pushed a bill in 2016 that would have lowered the penalty for bail-jumping in certain instances.
My comment at the time this came out:
Exit take: These are issues that Democrats can do something about… if they choose.
GOP, Keeping it classy
After the Senate voted 53-47 to confirm the first black woman ever to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court…
As applause echoed from the marbled walls, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, turned his back and slowly walked out, as did most of the few Republicans remaining on the floor, leaving half of the chamber empty as the other half celebrated in a stark reflection of the partisan divide.
1. The Crazies Who Want to Take Over Elections
2. The Oberlin Culture War of 2016 Finally Comes to an End
Six years ago an African-American college student was arrested for shoplifting and a culture war erupted in Oberlin, Ohio. Now it's over. Did anyone learn anything? Daniel McGraw writes in today’s Bulwark:
You may have forgotten the particulars of the incident: An African-American student attempted to shoplift two bottles of wine from Gibson’s Bakery, a neighborhood institution near Oberlin College. The kid was arrested. The next day protests began, with students massed outside the business, passing out fliers and charging that the arrest had been the result of racial profiling. The Oberlin College student Senate passed a resolution saying the Gibson family were racists. There were calls for a boycott. The college, which had long done business with Gibson’s, terminated its relationship with the bakery.
The owners of Gibson’s filed a defamation suit against Oberlin. And now, six years later, we have a final result.
Oberlin College did defame and libel Gibson’s.
3. Death of a Russian Fascist
But whatever the precise moment Zhirinovsky shuffled off this mortal coil, the timing was uncanny. Russia is, after all, in the midst of an adventure that not very long ago would have seemed like a fantasy from one of Zhirinovsky’s fevered rants: the attempted military conquest of Ukraine accompanied by a rapid and dramatic backslide into a new Cold War with the West, complete with a new Iron Curtain and nuclear saber-rattling meant to terrify the world. His brand of militant Russo-fascism, in less clownish but no less ghoulish garb, triumphed fully in Russia with hardly any daylight left between Zhirinovskyism and Putinism.
4. The Gang of Ten and the Challenge of Bipartisan Budgeting
Speaking of centrism.
As matters stand today, the GOP is mostly a destructive force in American politics. The elected Republican senators who understand this—and privately despair of it—could help point their party in a healthy direction while also addressing issues of deep importance to the nation and staying true to their principles.