November 20, 2016

DONALD WHO?:

DONALD TRUMP ENTERS MITCH MCCONNELL'S WASHINGTON (Benjamin Wallace-Wells, NOVEMBER 11, 2016, The New Yorker)

No one voluntarily watches the press conferences of Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader. Covering them is a form of civic duty. "A man with the natural charisma of an oyster," Gail Collins once called him. On Wednesday afternoon, the constitutionally taciturn McConnell took questions from the press for almost half an hour. The senator had spent the past six years stringing Washington along, devoting the upper house of Congress to a program of obstruction, delay, and non-compliance on the theory that this would benefit the Republican Party--and now he had been proved right. He opened on a "parochial matter," praising the success of Republicans in his home state of Kentucky, who won seventeen seats in the state legislature and would control the body for the first time in ninety-five years. The news, McConnell said, "only added a little more happiness to my evening."

McConnell's basic perspective is that political movements recede, and change is fleeting. "I think it is always a mistake to misread your mandate," he said. "Frequently, new majorities think it is forever." McConnell said flat-out that some of Donald Trump's proposals--a trillion dollars in new infrastructure projects, a Washington reform bill that includes term limits for members of Congress--would not be priorities for Senate Republicans. He spoke more warmly of other ideas--tax cuts for corporations and a correction to "overregulation," which he said was the reason the country never achieved three-per-cent annual economic growth under President Obama. Of Trump's voters, McConnell said, "They might not have put it this way, but the lack of growth is the reason for the lack of opportunity." Of plans to repeal Obamacare, he said, "I would be shocked if we did not move forward." McConnell said that the election had given Republicans a "temporary lease on power," and that he was concerned about overreach. That, he said, was the mistake the Democrats made after 2008, when they controlled a super-majority in the Senate. "And then they paid a big price for it two years later." [...]

Donald Trump is a cynic about human beings and McConnell is a cynic about political progress; the two perspectives are not exactly the same. At his press conference on Wednesday, McConnell was asked about Trump's skepticism about the nato alliance, and his suggestions that the United States could see Russia as a friend. McConnell simply ignored the statements of the President-elect, and spoke to Moscow. "I think Article 5"--nato's mutual-defense pact--"means something," McConnell said. "If you attack any member of nato, you have us to deal with. I want the Russians to understand that fully." At this early date, it is difficult to know what Trump's Administration will look like, or will aim to do. But, beginning in January, Trump will be in McConnell's town. And surely it means something that the Majority Leader is treating the President-elect as a conventional character--a Republican--whether or not Trump fully knows it yet.

Posted by at November 20, 2016 9:44 AM

  

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