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August 03, 2011 1:50 PM Mitch McConnell, hostage taker

By Steve Benen

This quote from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been making the rounds today, and with good reason. It’s interesting from a variety of angles.

After [the debt-ceiling fight] was all over, Obama seemed to speak for revolted Americans — the kind of people who always want a new Washington — when he described the government as “dysfunctional.”

But at the Capitol, behind the four doors and the three receptionists and the police guard, McConnell said he could imagine doing this again.

“I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting,” he said. “Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.”

Let’s unpack this a bit.

First, after this brutal fiasco undermined the economy and made the United States an international laughingstock, the leading Senate Republican fully expects to do this again. McConnell believes his party has “learned” the value in pursuing this, regardless of the consequences. I wonder if voters might want to consider this before the 2012 elections.

Second, it’s a little surprising to hear him concede that “most” Republicans didn’t think the hostage should be shot. If that’s true, maybe next time, Democrats shouldn’t pay the ransom?

And third, note that McConnell was quite candid in his choice of words. It’s not just Democrats talking about Republicans taking “hostages” and demanding “ransoms”; here’s the leading Senate Republican using the exact same language. In other words, Mitch McConnell admitted, out loud and on the record, that his party took the full faith and credit of the United States hostage, demanded a ransom, and they fully intend to do it again.

Given all of this, it’s rather bizarre for Republicans to complain about being equated with terrorists. As Dave Weigel noted yesterday, “If you don’t want your opponent to label you a hostage-taker, here’s an idea: Don’t take hostages.”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • bleh on August 03, 2011 1:58 PM:

    Oh, jeez, there you libruls go again, with all yer "logic" 'n' "consistency" 'n' "facts" 'n' all that silly stuff.

    But REAL Heartland Americans know all about how libruls love big gummint with all its taxes 'n' regulations 'n' bureaucrats 'n' stuff, and they're gonna fight against tax-n-spend librul Obama Hillarycare baby-killing immigrant deficit job-destroying welfare.

    Also Kenyan Muslims too.

  • Bat of Moon on August 03, 2011 2:03 PM:

    This tactic will be repeated until a president confronts it head on and defeats it -- by invoking the 14th Amendment or whatever useful provision he can find. Strong presidents don't put up with this nonsense.

  • Mark-NC on August 03, 2011 2:04 PM:

    "I wonder if voters might want to consider this before the 2012 election"

    I know a whole bunch of Republican/Baggers who are in HEAVEN now. They LOVE the hostage strategy, and apparently don't give a damn about Medicare, SS, the economy, or anything else.

    I WISH I was joking - sadly NO!

  • DAY on August 03, 2011 2:07 PM:

    "Mitch McConnell admitted, out loud and on the record, that his party took the full faith and credit of the United States hostage, demanded a ransom, and they fully intend to do it again.
    "

    Gosh, but that would make a good campaign commercial! Except it wouldn't be "nice", so we won't do it. . .

  • Live Free or Die on August 03, 2011 2:07 PM:

    This is Obama's fault. He has the biggest bully pulpit. Yet keeps on saying Washington (both sides)is at fault. WTF Obama?? Say Republican.

  • Holmes on August 03, 2011 2:08 PM:

    A lot of Republicans love this stuff because everything is about tribal resentment for them. Listen to talk radio; it is nothing but fear of the "other" and a perpetual stoking of their respective persecution complex.

  • Bernard HP Gilroy on August 03, 2011 2:09 PM:

    As much as I hate his ideology and his tactics, I have to admire McConnell. Out of everyone in Washington, he alone tells it like it is. He telegraphs every one of his moves and he always admits to the true motivations behind his stance.

    And he keeps coming up a winner, which is astonishing.

  • Live Free or Die on August 03, 2011 2:11 PM:

    @DAY- BINGO. He is not allowed to say negative things about Republicans, only about his base.

  • Holmes on August 03, 2011 2:14 PM:

    McConnell is following Bob Dole's strategy from the Clinton ear, but with the added benefit of an economic crisis, the filibuster essentially being normalized even before Obama came into office, and a feckless media afraid to say a negative thing about Republicans unless it is couched as "both sides" horseshit.

  • sinclair on August 03, 2011 2:17 PM:

    After catching a few minutes of a repeat of "The Fifth Element" the other day I propose sending in Bruce Willis, instead of a feckless Obama, to handle the next round of negotiations with Republicans. Clearly he is possessing of a far superior strategy. "Anybody else want to negotiate?" No? Ok, good.

  • SteveT on August 03, 2011 2:18 PM:

    I wonder if voters might want to consider this before the 2012 elections.

    Right now I'm more concerned about whether the White House starts to consider it.

    Until they recognize that the Republican Party is now run by fanatics who couldn't care less about the American people or about the collateral damage and suffering that their policies cause, the United States is going to continue it's slide toward third-world status.

    And as long as Obama pursues a strategy of "bipartisanship", he is going to be blamed for how badly the economy sucks.

    Remember, the Republicans were in retreat before this latest manufactured crisis. Now, unless they overreach again, their attempts to destroy Medicare are no longer a useful campaign issue.

    Obama needs to start controlling the political agenda by setting out short-term and bolder long-term goals. And he needs to figure out how to lay out those agenda items in a way the low-information "independent" voter can understand -- in terms simple enough to fit on a bumper sticker.

  • toowearyforoutrage on August 03, 2011 2:19 PM:

    As Dave Weigel noted yesterday, “If you don’t want your opponent to label you a hostage-taker, here’s an idea: Don’t take hostages.”

    It's simple. We're not one of them, so we can't go using the word.
    Only hostage-takers can call each other the t-word.
    If you ain't one of 'em, it's not cool to go using that word.

    The Republicans are sensitive about that, they insist we use politically correct terms.


  • Redshift on August 03, 2011 2:27 PM:

    Second, it’s a little surprising to hear him concede that “most” Republicans didn’t think the hostage should be shot. If that’s true, maybe next time, Democrats shouldn’t pay the ransom?

    I suppose that depends on how many of them it takes to shoot the hostage.

  • stormskies on August 03, 2011 2:28 PM:

    Like Chris Hedges said a while back: "It's already over, and they have won". He was referring of course to the corporations and the oligarchy of the infamous 400 families ......

  • Dude on August 03, 2011 2:30 PM:

    I've said it before and I'll say it again:

    Mitch McConnell is a traitor to his country and needs to be called out as such.

  • stormskies on August 03, 2011 2:35 PM:

    SEDITION IS WHAT THESE EVIL CREEPS LIKE McConnell are about ... all the create a society of Zarathustras ... and of course THEY are the self appointed Zarathustras, and all the rest of us are simply here to serve THEM

  • DZ on August 03, 2011 2:41 PM:

    McConnell is an absolute joke as a Senator and public servant, one that should not be taken seriously.

    But he is a master politician. An absolute master. One of the best on the Hill.

    You can't help but think that the GOP can pretty much do whatever it wants right now.

    And a big reason Republicans can be so brazen is because, as mentioned, the Dems refuse to use campaign ads that literally write themselves.

    Very depressing.

  • jlt on August 03, 2011 2:44 PM:

    You do not reward bad behavior in children..You divert their attention..Like calling them out for what they are ..TERRORISTS...And exposing their achillies heel..Publishing the contributions from their wealthy donors..and that they gleefully awaited the default on the debt ceiling.. there racist members and comments..attempts to demean the President...attacks on the elderly... children... middle class..AND SCREAMING DOWN THEIR LIES and those that allow them to go uncorrected! Etc..

    Never let up ..use the term Terrorists when ever referring to them from now till Nov 2012

  • nemisten on August 03, 2011 2:52 PM:

    As I've said before, once there's an R in the WH, any Dem who attempts to pull this will be labeled a freedom-hating, godless, communist, muslim, terrorist. The MSM, of course, will repeat ad nauseum.

    When asked about their past use, R's will simply disavow any knowledge of such action. Dem's will then whimper and return to their fetal position.

    (I've seen this movie.)

  • Cybrguy on August 03, 2011 2:53 PM:

    Just watch. We got short term forked on this, no doubt. But we have to have a longer view. The President has set up (with the help of the rethugs) a no win situation for the rethugs going forward. They are all on record now using hostage tactics, and we even have their big dog admitting that that is exactly what they did, it worked for them, and they intend to do it again. I'm not a terribly creative guy, but the ads just write themselves.
    The President is a smarter guy than most give him credit for. In his many meetings with the rethug leadership they made it clear to the President what they intended to do. He gave them every opportunity to behave badly, and every single time they obliged. Personally, I think Obama was quite adept at handing them just enough rope without having to appear the bad guy himself. It was not just coincidence (or the rethug plan) that the rethugs had (and took) so many opportunities to look greedy and unpatriotic.
    With the help of a clueless Tea Party, the President has set up his own reelection, and the taking back of the house. The Dems now have the most powerful political weaponry they (we) have ever had. And this appears to be a gift that keeps on giving. Thank heaven for videotape.
    I know this moment is a very frustrating one, but it really is a turning point. The Dems have learned and the gloves come off. Having disgusted the majority of their own party the Tea Party has signed a suicide pact that will wipe out their influence and control of the republican party. Watch...

  • j on August 03, 2011 3:10 PM:

    Cybrguy - I hope and pray that you are right!

  • Schtick on August 03, 2011 3:13 PM:

    Cyberguy, you may be correct, but the dems will never use the ads to begin with, nevermind make them. The dems are a party of spineless twits and DINOs. When everything that is said and done is all about winning and nothing else, we the people have lost and our country has lost.

    crapcha....mis ientisc....just missed

  • zeitgeist on August 03, 2011 3:14 PM:

    The President has set up (with the help of the rethugs) a no win situation for the rethugs going forward

    but it really is a turning point. The Dems have learned

    Like the Republicans were out on the canvas after 06 and 08? Like the no-win situation they were in after the extension of the Bush tax cuts? or the turning point after Obama won health care reform? or like Dems learned to take the gloves off after the birther nonsense?

    You'll apologize if I note that I've heard all of these before and am still waiting for the new day to dawn.

    Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, we, uh, we won't get fooled again.

    Or something like that.

  • nemisten on August 03, 2011 3:17 PM:

    Cybrguy -- hope you're right, but Dem's have a nasty habit of botching the PR game. Instead of taking off the gloves and writing the ads as you've suggested, Dem's will 'play nice' and, well, you'll see.

    This latest episode is merely typical disgusting behavior the GOPers have demonstrated over the last 20-30 years. To list it all is too depressing, and Dem's never capitalize. Think: After eight disastrous years of Bush/Cheney, it took only two years for Americans to elect a slew of insane Bush-like idiots.

    The prosecution rests.

  • neil b on August 03, 2011 3:30 PM:

    Since McConnell says the economy is a hostage and it's OK for his thugs to take it such, then no one - neither their direct supporters, the "moderates", the squishy praisers of compromise, high Broderists, the lame-stream media, can complain when people like Biden say they are acting like terrorists (did that verify - I hope so.)

    BTW, altho the media hacks are saying the Tea Party won, they themselves and liberal don't agree. At http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2011-08-03-poll-debt-agreement_n.htm we find e.g.:
    Though Tea Party conservatives succeeded in setting the parameters of the debate, supporters of the Tea Party are among those most unhappy with the outcome. Only 22% of Tea Party supporters approve of the deal, compared with 26% of Republicans generally and 58% of Democrats.

    Like many are saying, even without extra revenue built into the agreement Obama still stopped the two-stage process, blocking Boehner's bill near the last minute but not too close to go over the cliff, stopped CCB and a forced BBA intrusion, etc. He did speak out against what Republicans were doing, about them caring more about oil company breaks than the middle class etc.

    Obama's got a fine line to tread in this environment. Complainers need to realize they are being gamed by a corporate media that subtly - not overtly like Faux appealing to direct opponents - spins things so his supporters will be more disgruntled than need be. Finally, it's his birthday tomorrow, OK, wish him a good one.

  • Cybrguy on August 03, 2011 4:30 PM:

    "Cyberguy, you may be correct, but the dems will never use the ads to begin with, nevermind make them. The dems are a party of spineless twits and DINOs. When everything that is said and done is all about winning and nothing else, we the people have lost and our country has lost."

    I know the history. I've been right here the whole time watching is horror as the rethugs used us as toilet paper. But if it happens now, again, after they have so clearly demonstrated their intentions in ways that children can understand, then WE are to blame as much as our politicians are. We all saw 2010 and what resulted from letting rethugs control the agenda, and we have seen what they did with their majority. That was a pretty good lesson on what NOT to do, and all America saw it. We are NOT destined to do it again. The "REAL" Dem politicians need to be told in no uncertain terms and as a condition to getting our money that there will be no placating and no attempts to "find the middle" when the middle is falling off the right side. The bleeding must stop and the Dems need to get tough. If the politicos are too afraid than we need to start playing the game that the rethugs play and dump millions into ads and web videos and CREATIVE messages that make people think. Push video of their craziness and greed. Push the messages that only WE see into the PUBLIC EYE at prime time!

    We CAN do this. We have to, or the country is lost.

  • Srteve M. on August 03, 2011 4:39 PM:

    I wonder if voters might want to consider this before the 2012 elections.

    Voters like the spending cuts. That's because they think all that will be cut is waste, of which they think there's a limitless amount. They don't think anything crucial has to be cut to get us to a balanced budget.

  • Maxwell on August 03, 2011 5:35 PM:

    "And third, note that McConnell was quite candid in his choice of words. It’s not just Democrats talking about Republicans taking “hostages” and demanding “ransoms”; here’s the leading Senate Republican using the exact same language. In other words, Mitch McConnell admitted, out loud and on the record, that his party took the full faith and credit of the United States hostage, demanded a ransom, and they fully intend to do it again."

    He was addressing the rhetoric, you clown. Was this op-ed written by Derek Zoolander?

  • Anonymous on August 03, 2011 7:46 PM:

    Mitch McConnell, closet homo turtle

    Fixed it for you Mr. Benen

  • david1234 on August 03, 2011 10:34 PM:

    Republicans really do not see themselves as acting like terrorists. What they see is Democrats acting like chumps.

  • JM917 on August 03, 2011 11:14 PM:

    Cyberguy, I too hope you're right. But if there's going to be pushback against the Republican enemy (a word I don't used lightly), it's GOT to start with OBAMA himself. Otherwise the pushback consists merely of people like us pouring out our rage and frustration into blogs like this, or an occasional Dem senator or rep making loud growls that the MSM reports as "he said/she said."

    I think that he needs to say candidly that he is shocked and disillusioned (well, don't use that word, but that's what it is) at the failure of his hopes for promoting a civil dialogue in Washington. He's got to say publicly that the Republicans don't play fair, don't negotiate in good faith, and don't mean well by the American people.

    He's got to change the tone of all this--and fast. I say start with a strong jobs plan and with a forthright attack on the Republican Party for DELIBERATELY sabotaging recovery for the sake of winning in 2012. Sure the Repugs will howl and David Brooks will tsk-tsk and the MSM will eat up the "controversy." But start saying it loud and clear now that we're (for the moment) past the debt-ceiling crisis ("totally manufactuered," he's already right in say): The Republicans DO NOT have the best interests of America at heart. They are for the richest 2% and want to consign the average American to be dumb, poorly paid, and not protected at all from the scams of the marketplace and the depredations of the wealthy.

    No more bipartisan crap! I like just the way you lay out what needs to be said--but I'm also with the posters above who really do wonder whether the prez and the Dem politicians/message-meisters really have it in them to SAY this loud and clear--and again and again.

    I hope that someone in the White House and in the Re-Elect Obama operation and in the DNC take a look at blogs like this.

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