Tag Archives: John Thune

QAnon and the New McCarthyism

mccarthyism (the kevin variant) n. 1. the behavior of a craven, amoral politician eager to advance his or her political career at the expense of the security and safety of the nation. 

2. The antithesis of patriotism.

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“I think it would be helpful if you could hear exactly what she told all of us — denouncing Q-on, I don’t know if I say it right, I don’t even know what it is,” House Minority Leader  Kevin McCarthy (Q-Calif.) said after he defended the bigoted, conspiracy theorist freshman Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-Ga.) for her heinous remarks and actions. His defense is a classic example of the new McCarthyism.

Nice try, Representative McCarthy, but pulling the old Trumpian dodge — “I know nothing about QAnon” — will not get you off the hook. Here is the problem with that formulation, Mr. Minority Leader: The rest of us know enough about QAnon and its loony conspiracies to condemn it. And, here is another problem, Mr. Craven Politician: You are on tape, on FOX News last August, condemning QAnon. “Let me be very clear: There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party. I do not support it,” you said then. I know you do not have a reputation as the sharpest knife in the drawer, but surely, Mr. McCarthy, your memory is better than that. But, selective amnesia is a part of the new McCarthyism.

Of course, the gyrations of the Republican House leader on Greene reflect the state of today’s Republican Party. There may have been no place for QAnon in the Republican Party six months ago, but, today, McCarthy and the bulk of the Republican House caucus are more than willing to carve out a spot for her, with some members giving her a standing ovation at a contentious meeting Wednesday night. Think about that: Republicans in the House gave a standing ovation to a colleague who wants Speaker Nancy Pelosi assassinated. The reasons are simple: Greene mirrors the views of millions of voters to whom the party appeals, and she is close to former president Donald Trump. Greene may hold idiotic notions, but she is savvy enough to know when to invoke Trump’s name, which she did last weekend as the furor over her intensified. “I had a great call with my all time favorite POTUS, President Trump! I’m so grateful for his support,” the QAnon lawmaker tweeted. 

It is hard to see this McCarthyist cowardice as a winning strategy. Republican loyalty to Trump led to the party losing the White House, the House, and the Senate after controlling all three in 2017. Sure, a public vote to remove Greene from her committee assignments might result in a primary challenge against a member from someone even further out in la-la land, but what is the value in staving off a primary challenge only to lose in the general election?

Actually, many Senate Republicans understand the danger of hooking the party to QAnon. “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and the country,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The second-ranking Republican in the Senate, John Thune of South Dakota, asked whether Republicans “want to be the party of limited government… or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon? (The Senator might want to withdraw the question as he might not want to hear the answer.) Utah Senator Mitt Romney said, “Our big tent is not large enough to both accommodate conservatives and kooks.” 

Many Senate Republicans know Greene spells disaster for the Republican Party. Already, the Democratic Party is running an advertising campaign making Greene the face of the GOP. But, Senate Republican condemnation of Greene rings hollow given the party’s past tolerance of Trump’s lies and embrace of conspiracy theories. Remember, Trump came to political prominence pushing “birtherism.” Along the way, he claimed Senator Ted Cruz’s father helped assassinate John Kennedy; Barack Obama founded the Islamic State; TV anchor Joe Scarborough, when a congressman, murdered one of his staffers, and many more “looney lies.” Trump’s penchant for conspiracy theories culminated in the big lie of a stolen election in 2020 that led to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The dynamic in the House is different. Republicans in the lower chamber refused to take any action against Greene, settling, instead, for a tortured McCarthyist statement from their leader in which McCarthy said Greene’s “past comments now have much greater meaning. Marjorie recognized this in our conversation. I hold her to her word, as well as her actions going forward” before pivoting to attacking the Democrats for wanting to more effectively rebuke the Georgia representative. House Republicans assume a racist, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist who has not apologized for any of her assaults on decency will behave decorously in the future. Good luck with that!

Republicans also took up the future of Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican. Cheney, a consistent conservative, ran afoul of the Trumpistas in the party for voting to impeach Trump for instigating the Capitol riot. Cheney survived by a vote of 145 to 61, but only, one suspects, because the vote was secret. On the open vote Thursday on removing Greene from House committees, only 11 Republicans voted in the affirmative. The vast majority of Republicans were unmoved by the emotional appeal of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who displayed a picture of Greene posing with an assault rifle juxtaposed with photos of three progressive Democratic congresswomen of color above a caption, “The Squad’s Worst Nightmare.” “When you take this vote, imagine your faces on this poster,” Hoyer said to his Republican colleagues. “Imagine it’s a Democrat with an AR-15. Imagine what your response would be.”

The cowardice of the new McCarthyism is unfathomable. Just two years ago, McCarthy stripped Iowa Representative Steve King of his committee appointments because of his history of white supremacist remarks. Odious as King’s racism was, it seems tame compared to the egregious behavior of Marjorie Taylor Greene. But, according to the new McCarthyism, it is acceptable for members of the United States House of Representatives to threaten other members on the other side of the aisle with assault rifles.

Fortunately, at least for now, the Democrats have a majority in the House.

Posted February 5, 2021

Who’s “Dumb As a Rock?”

He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.President Donald Trump tweeting on Rex Tillerson on December 7, 2018, after his former secretary of state said Trump is undisciplined, does not like to read, and is willing to commit illegal acts. 

You know what I’ll say: Yes, if we don’t get what we want, one way or the other — whether it’s through you, through a military, through anything you want to call — I will shut down the government. Absolutely…. I am proud to shut down the government for border security…. So, I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.Trump in an Oval Office meeting with presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, December 11, 2018.

One of the more interesting questions of the Trump era (aside from how many criminal acts he committed as a candidate and while in office) is: Just how dumb is the president?

We know he does not read, at least not much. We know he was ignorant of the historical significance of Frederick Douglass. We know candidate Trump did not understand the Republican position on abortion nor the nature of the nuclear triad. We also know President Trump embarrassingly was unaware of the meaning of NATO’s collective security clause. The list goes on….

But, few thought Trump would be so foolish as to give away the whole ballgame in a rash statement during his White House meeting with Pelosi and Schumer. After all, the trick in Washington is to pin a government shutdown on the other side. Now, we have a president who, for the first time, pinned it on himself! Way to go, Mr. President!

I suppose a case can be made that Trump, once again, is playing to his base supporters in threatening a partial government shutdown at midnight on December 21 over funding for his border wall. Trumpistas, after all, despise the government and probably believe shutting it down is a good thing. They also may consider his threat a sign of manly toughness, though Pelosi may have had the last word on that when she said, “It’s like a manhood thing with him — as if manhood can be associated with him. This wall thing!” As for Schumer, he could barely contain his glee, breaking into a wide smile at Trump’s ineptness, declaring simply, “Okay. Fair enough.”

Trump befuddled congressional Republicans, who along with members of the administration, have been laying the groundwork for a “Schumer shutdown” by trying to blame Democrats if an agreement on border security is not reached. “I don’t understand the ­strategy, but maybe he’s figured it out and he’ll tell us in due course,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate. “But I don’t understand it.” The third-ranking GOP senator, John Thune of South Dakota, agreed. “It [a shutdown] would not be good.” Thune added, “The president has his own style and way of negotiating.” 

That is putting it nicely. During the campaign, Trump billed himself as the master negotiator, the author (kind of) of the best-selling, “The Art of the Deal.” I will leave it to the experts, but I am pretty sure a good negotiator does not go into talks declaring his or her willingness to take responsibility if the negotiations break down. And speaking of deals, whatever happened to Trump’s promise that Mexico would pay for the wall? “We will build a great wall along the southern border. And, Mexico will pay for the wall,” candidate Trump promised on September 1, 2016.

Promises, promises! Of course, Mexico was never going to pay for the wall, so now Trump has to beseech Congress for funding. The president thinks it is a winning issue for him. “If we have to close down the country over border security, I actually like that in terms of an issue,” Trump said after the meeting with Pelosi and Schumer. “I will take it because we are closing it down for border security, and I think I win that every single time.”

There are three problems with Trump’s analysis. First, he ignores the simple fact that for the next few weeks, Republicans control all the branches of the government, which Pelosi pointed out. “…[I]n the House, you could bring it up [a bill funding the wall for five-billion dollars] right now, today,” she said. While the rules of the Senate dictate that Republicans will need some Democratic votes to pass the bill, the House is simpler, and the simple truth is that the GOP lacks the votes to pass a border security bill in the lower chamber, despite controlling a majority of representatives. And, frankly, Trump does not have the negotiating skills to persuade reluctant Republican House members to vote for funding his wall.

The second problem with Trump trying to pin blame on the Democrats is that the border wall is not very popular. In a poll taken last summer, a majority (57 percent) of Americans opposed expanding construction of the wall along the Mexican border. It is difficult to imagine many people rallying to Trump’s side because he shut down the government over funding a wall they oppose. 

Finally, Trump’s assessment is wrong because shutting down the government is never a winning issue. Trump believes Democrats will lose the current fight over funding because Schumer and his colleagues caved a year ago when they shut down the government over a path for citizenship for the Dreamers (immigrants brought to America illegally at a young age). But, that dispute differs from the current one in two ways: First, this time, Trump is the one making demands, and, second, Dreamers have much more support than the wall. If a shutdown over the Dreamers was a loser, then one over the wall is even more so. Besides, no one ever wins for causing a government shutdown. Just ask Senator Ted Cruz about the closing of the government he caused in 2013, or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich about the 1995 shutdown. Moreover, shutting down the government just before Christmas — throwing federal workers off the payroll — seems particularly Grinch-like.

So, Mr. President, who is dumb as a rock?

Posted December 14, 2018