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Politics 101 with Mitch McConnell: Caught with Your Pants Down? Blame the People Looking at Your Butt

What lies at the heart of the Ashley Judd smear plot scandal.
 
 
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— from Reader Supported News

The best part about the tape recording of Mitch McConnell's campaign plans to slime Ashley Judd is the Kentucky senator's masterfully dark political response to questions about to it.

McConnell does not deny the authenticity of the tape of the February 2 meeting at his campaign headquarters, published April 9 by Mother Jones reporter David Corn. [At this point there is no reliable public information about who made the tape or how. Corn received the tape with a condition of confidentiality.]

Nor does McConnell dispute the tape's content or his presence at the meeting where it was recorded. Instead, he says things like this to reporters, as he did, three different ways, on April 9:

Yeah, as I indicated, last month they were attacking my wife's ethnicity, and then apparently, unbeknownst to us at the time, they were bugging our headquarters. Quite a Nixonian move. This is what you get from the political left in America."

Does McConnell's response constitute paranoid raving in the Nixonian mode, or a cold-blooded bit of political judo to turn an embarrassment into an attack, or a heartfelt statement of belief detached from reality, or something else?

To know with anything like certainty, one would have to get inside Mitch McConnell's head, and get out alive. But here are some possible clues:

"My Wife's Ethnicity"

He doesn't say who attacked his wife's ethnicity, whatever it may be.

Turns out his second and current wife, Elaine Chao, is of Chinese descent and was born in Taiwan. She was President George W. Bush's labor secretary and the first Taiwanese American to serve in a president's cabinet in American history.

And the "attack?" The Washington Post politics blog suggests it came from a Democratic Super PAC called Progress Kentucky that sent a Valentine's Day tweet on February 14. The Post provides a link to a page that is gone, but offers this much as the tweet's text:

This woman has the ear of @mcconnellpress - she's his #wife.

May explain why your job moved to #China! rense.com/general77/raci ...

So the tweet reveals:

  1. No attack on Elaine Chao's ethnicity;
  2. An implied denigration of her nationality in a global economic context;
  3. An implication of a conflict of interest based on her Chinese connections;
  4. An attack on her (and anyone else involved) for sending American jobs to China;
  5. And the suggestion that she has undue influence on her husband.

So McConnell's response dishonestly goes for the hot button of race, while falsely asserting that race was used against his wife. Clearly, insofar as there is any attack in the tweet, it is aimed at Elaine Chao's role, if any, in the disemboweling of the American economic system by the Bush administration. Whetever Chao's role, the pliant Senator McConnell was at least an accomplice in the Bush administration's economic evisceration of America.

An Aside About the Alleged Tweet Victim

Chao, 60, was the only cabinet member to serve throughout Bush's term, 2001-2009. She was born in Taiwan, immigrated to the U.S. in 1961, and married McConnell in 1993, but her official and unofficial biographies have no mention of her becoming a U.S. citizen.

Her service as Labor secretary, while not particularly contentious, was widely praised by business leaders. Labor leaders tended to think the Labor secretary didn't do much to protect workers.

At least two General Accounting Office reports were critical of the Labor Department under her leadership, and a Congressional committee report found that Chao and other administration officials broke the law by campaigning for Republican candidates while they held public office. No enforcement action was brought.

The tweet ends somewhat provocatively with "rense.com/general77/raci ... "

What's that about? Seems the Progress Kentucky people were linking to a reportaccusing Chao of "racist remarks about U.S. workers" in the July 1, 2007, edition of Parade Magazine that reported:

American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene," says Chao. "They need anger-management and conflict-resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction. Too many young people bristle when a supervisor asks them to do something.

Since American employees come in a variety of ethnicities, it's hard to see Chao's remarks as being racist. That characterization is about as fair as McConnell claiming that Democrats attacked his wife's ethnicity.

"Apparently ... They Were Bugging Our Headquarters"

McConnell, 71, offered no evidence for this speculation.

But he smartly reported that speculation to the FBI, who is pretty much obliged to look into almost any complaint from a sitting senator, no matter how bogus it may appear on its face.

And the play works beautifully for McConnell, not only letting him limit comments because "it's under investigation," but even moreso by baiting credulous news media(such as ABC News) into covering another "Watergate" story instead of asking a calloused old man why he thought it would be all right to attack Ashley Judd for her religious views or her health issues or what her grandmother had to say about her.

It's so much more comfortable for a fundamentally corrupt politician to point fingers at the imaginary skullduggery (or even real skullduggery, for that matter) that produced the tape, rather than being forced to explain the actual contents of the tape by facing such questions as:

  • Who are Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson? Are they legislative assistants in your Senate office? Why were they doing your campaign work while on the public payroll? Isn't this the same way your wife broke the law? Or -
  • When was the last time you had your offices swept for bugs? Since you're now saying you were bugged, you've had your offices electronically swept, right? Or -
  • Can you explain what your assistant means when he says, on the tape, "I've omitted all of her mountaintop removal stuff. It's a whole separate category. It doesn't quite test as well." Does that mean that you're well aware that mountaintop removal is unconscionable, but you don't have the conscience to oppose it? Or -
  • Do you think it's hypocritical of you to consider attacking Ashley Judd for "a multi-million dollar mansion in Scotland" when you have a self-reported net worth in the $40 million range? At least she earned her money honestly as a movie star, didn't she? How did you get all that money by working only in politics?

Not only does McConnell manage to evade uncomfortable questioning, he uses the false claim as a fundraising gimmick - turns it into a twofer, attacking liberals and the media:

 

"Quite a Nixonian Move"

Here's what would be a Nixonian move - answering the last question about net worth by telling the world, "I'm not a crook."

Here's what would be a Nixonian move, implacably pursuing racial politics against your president, while inventing attacks on your wife's ethnicity.

Here's what would be a Nixonian move, inventing a horrible, imaginary enemy that looks like what you see when you look into yourself.

"What You Get From the Political Left in America"

What? Here's the ultimate Nixonian move, accusing your opponents of being who you are, and make them prove they're not. In another form it was called McCarthyism. It's unscrupulous, dishonest, and divorced from reality - but it frequently works.

It's especially effective when you can get uncritical news media just echoing your chamber of horrors.

This is not what you get from the political left in America. You don't get break-ins and black bag jobs and criminal conspiracies from the left in America. Because, for all practical purposes, there is no left in America.

There is another party and it's happy to carry on your warrantless surveillance of innocent citizens, and to expand your growing police state, and to assassinate inconvenient people with drones, but that's not the left. That's just your party by other means.

Politics of Personal Destruction

Mitch McConnell is the guy who made it clear to everyone that he simply didn't care what harm he did to the country as long as he could make Barack Obama a one-term president.

And, for all the pain he inflicted on the rest of us, he didn't even achieve that.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

 
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