Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (born 1942) on Tuesday attacked the Republican National Committee for censuring two house Republicans, Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for their cooperation with the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack.
McConnell in effect adopted the position of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) (born 1940), which is that the events of January 6, 2021 constitute an attempted coup d’etat. “It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next,” McConnell said.
The half-naked man in the buffalo hat howling from the well of the Senate is not just Pelosi’s Reichstag Fire. It is not just Joe Biden’s (born 1942) Reichstag Fire. It’s McConnell’s Reichstag Fire. It’s the entire 80-something, I-am-never-letting-go-of-power crowd’s Reichstag Fire.
Indeed, for the second time in less than five years, an 80-something Republican senator has directly attacked his own party’s base, with venal dishonesty, on a matter so fundamental that without it the party might as well not exist.
Let me back up for a minute.
Former Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) (born 1936) narrowly won reelection in 2016. An explicit campaign promise to support the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act got him over the top. Yet in July 2017, McCain voted “no” on the repeal of ACA, dramatically making the Roman pollice verso gesture. McCain, who was 80 at the time and had just had brain surgery to treat terminal cancer, betrayed his promise. Within a year McCain had passed away, and any chance of repeal of ACA had also died with the loss of the Republican-controlled Senate.
McConnell is positioning his party, which he leads in the Senate, to condemn itself for a riot that grew out of a protest objecting to an election that had, and still has for 71 percent of Republicans, the obvious appearance of corruption directed against his own party. McConnell is endorsing the opposition’s propaganda that the election was not only not problematic but pristine.
The Republican leader is further endorsing the J6 committee, which includes just two Republicans, each of whom were hand-picked by Pelosi, because before any investigation they had aligned with Democrats. The result is the deadly serious J6 committee has no deliberative means of operating. It has no adversarial component to test the truth of its claims.
“Truth is great and will prevail,” Thomas Jefferson observed, “. . . unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons.” This is what the J6 committee is all about: preventing a debate. McConnell’s attack on his own party is procedurally incompetent no less than it is dangerous.
The J6 committee is using its legislative subpoena powers to end run the Fourth Amendment as a companion tactic to the Justice Department’s use of pre-trial detention to end run the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments. Both are tactics to intimidate, cow, and in some cases imprison McConnell’s own party and its base.
In attacking his own, McConnell trades on the political capital he has accumulated as a result of his reputation for ruthless tactics—he is known as “Murder Turtle” for his cold scalpel and hatchet procedural deadliness—with respect to the appointment of judges. One is tempted to ask, what is the value of that? Are there really no others who could do that? Indeed, there are. And, more importantly, where are those judges now? Nowhere.
The stacking of the bench with a presidential term’s worth of careerist “conservatives” who got where they were by avoiding risk all their lives has done nothing to impede the evisceration of the Bill of Rights following January 6, to impede the Biden Administration’s lawless facilitation of illegal immigration, or to restore the separation of powers.
McConnell’s historical analogue is Paul von Hindenburg (born 1847). Hindenburg was the very old, highly respected old-regime president of Weimar Germany. In 1933, in response to the Reichstag Fire, Hindenburg, at Hitler’s request, signed the Reichstag Fire Decree suspending German civil liberties. Within a year Hindenburg was dead, along with any remaining opposition to Hitler.
McConnell needs to be cashiered by the GOP. They will have to live without his “tactical genius” soon enough, anyway. And like McCain before him, he’s attacking the fundamental causes of the party from within for reasons that seem, for lack of a better word, demented.