Mitch McConnell’s late-breaking emergence at the center of negotiations to stave off default and reopen the government is making life more complicated for the Democrat who wants to oust him.
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes routinely refers to McConnell as Senator Gridlock and Democrats say she does not intend to stop. Her aides were using the derogatory nickname even as McConnell and Harry Reid were deep into discussions of how to bring the country back from the brink.
McConnell broke last month with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s crusade to defund Obamacare ““ the Affordable Care Act ““ in a bill to keep the rest of the government running. That and his talks with Reid make him seem, at least for the moment, like a pragmatist amid the tea party absolutists on the right. The moves also reflect his relative freedom to operate as he sees fit.
While McConnell has a tea party primary challenger, Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, two polls last summer showed he had three times as much support as Bevin. He is not acting like a worried man, nor does he need to. “I don’t think Matt Bevin is even the slightest blip on the radar screen. He has absolutely no clue how to run a campaign,” says Republican Marc Wilson, a Kentucky-based strategist-turned-lobbyist.
That’s one reason. The other is the anger and frustration of people affected by the shutdown or simply fed up with the stalemate in Washington. “There’s no doubt there’s a political upside for being part of the solution,” says a strategist close to the McConnell campaign. “Virtually every American sees the problem as a catastrophe.”
The up sides are many, in fact. McConnell positions himself as a constructive force for the general election campaign next year against Grimes, and gains a talking point he can use every time she calls him Senator Gridlock. He helps put an end to an episode that has been terribly destructive to his party ““with polls showing that three-quarters of the country disapproves of the way the GOP has been handling the budget crisis. And he gets credit for being rational about what his minority party can and can’t achieve when the Senate and White House are in Democratic hands.
The Grimes camp says McConnell has a long history of obstructionism in the Senate that has worked against Kentucky’s interests. The campaign issued a statement this week suggesting that “Senator Gridlock hopes to swoop in for a last-minute backroom deal” because the markets are sliding in anticipation of default and “McConnell believes his own finances will be impacted.”
It isn’t the first time McConnell has swooped in. The 2012 fiscal cliff, the 2011 Budget Control Act, the tax deal of 2010 — whenever polarization threatens to derail the economy and relations between the two parties, McConnell is in the thick of negotiations. Josh Holmes, a senior adviser to McConnell’s campaign, says “Senator Gridlock” is a caricature that doesn’t hold up. “Virtually every time we’ve come to an economic standstill because of failure in Washington, you’ve got Sen. McConnell working with both sides to fix it,” he says.
And yet, McConnell has a history of obstructing Obama administration initiatives and even the normal workings of government. For instance, Senate Republicans have for six months blocked repeated Democratic attempts to hold budget negotiations with the House ““ talks that might have averted the shutdown. “He’s used partisanship and the filibuster more specifically to bring Washington to a grinding halt and create the type of culture and circumstances that led to this mess,” says Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He says that argument remains “salient, powerful and accurate.”
But McConnell will have an equally powerful counter-argument now that the debt ceiling and shutdown crises have converged and he is once again coming to the rescue.
If that recalls the proverbial man who killed his parents then begged the court for mercy because he was an orphan, well, maybe so. But that doesn’t make it any easier for Grimes. McConnell is sounding like the voice of reason these days in a party that has control of one half of one-third of the government, and a few dozen people who believe that’s a mandate.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”