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The Lies Mitch McConnell Tells

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The Lies Mitch McConnell Tells

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

A few words about the pious insincerity of Mitch McConnell.

As you are no doubt aware, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, announced on the very day that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died that he would refuse to hold hearings on any replacement nominated by President Obama. McConnell’s “reasoning,” if you want to grace it with that word, was that since the president has less than a year left in his term, the appointment should be made by whomever the American people choose as his successor.

Last week, after Obama fulfilled his constitutional duty by nominating respected federal judge Merrick Garland to the post, McConnell renewed his refusal. “The Biden rule,” he said, “reminds us that the decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle and not a person. It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election.”

The American people, added McConnell, should have a say in this. “So let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide.”

There are four lies here, each more threadbare and cynical than the last:

1. The Biden rule? There is no such thing. There is only an opinion Vice President Biden expressed 24 years ago as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that if a vacancy opened on the top court during convention season — which is still several months off — the president should “consider” not nominating a replacement until after the election. It bears repeating: Biden never said the president should not nominate or the Senate should not vote; he only suggested waiting until “after the election” to do so.

2. It’s the president who’s politicizing this? In psychology, that’s known as “projecting.” Around the way, it’s known as the pot calling the kettle black.

3. “A principle and not a person?” No, it’s about a person — the same person, the president — toward whom McConnell and his party have expressed such unremitting disrespect the last seven years.

4. The voice of the people? The people have already spoken — twice — in elections that were not close. For that matter, they are still speaking. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll says 63 percent of us want the Senate to hold hearings and vote.

McConnell should just claim he’s too busy arranging his sock drawer. That would be more credible than the excuses he’s given.

The quality of a lie is a direct reflection of the respect the liar has for the person being lied to. That will seem counterintuitive, but consider: You put effort into a lie, work to make it plausible, credible, believable, when you have regard for the recipient, when his good opinion matters or his discovery of the truth would be disastrous.

That being the case, what does it suggest when you put as little effort into a lie as McConnell has?

Indeed, while he has been roundly condemned for disrespecting the president, let’s spare some outrage for the way he is also disrespecting us. Not just in failing to do his job, but also in offering such a transparently dishonest rationale for it.

He knows he’s lying, you know he’s lying and he knows you know he’s lying. But you get the sense he doesn’t care. Why should he? Those who need to believe there’s a noble principle behind this obstructionism will be willingly gulled. As to the rest of us, so what?

That’s not statesmanship. It is not even politics. It’s just contempt — and not only for the president. If we cannot count on McConnell and his party to do the country’s business and behave in a manner befitting serious people in positions of responsibility, perhaps it’s not too much to ask that they at least spare us that.

Tell better lies next time.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)


Photo: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington March 8, 2016.  REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

  • 1


  1. Dominick Vila March 23, 2016

    The answer to Mitch McConnell’s justification for not holding hearing to vet President Obama’s nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy is simple: the people chose when they elected and re-elected Barack Obama. What the people did not vote for or expressed a preference to is the level of obstructionism and overt hatred by people like McConnell. If the Senate has a problem with the nomination of Judge Garland, let’s hear it, but do it following the traditions that have been established in the past, not narrow political and electioneering tactics unbecoming of the institution McConnell currently leads.

    1. TZToronto March 23, 2016

      McConnell is opening to door to a recess appointment of a Supreme Court justice. Of course, as long as the Senate is not in recess, the appointment cannot be made. So, will the Republicans keep the Senate in session, or will they, in their infinite wisdom, allow the Senate to recess, thereby allowing President Obama to do what he has the legitimate power to do? And if he has the courage to make the appointment, temporary though it is, will Republicans then start complaining that he has overstepped his authority and start threatening impeachment, although they would have no grounds for doing so? This gets curiouser and curiouser.

      1. FireBaron March 23, 2016

        There has never been a recess appointment to the Supreme Court. Also, any recess appointment only is valid until the next congress is in session (January 3, 2017). This would interrupt the 2016/2017 Supreme Court session more so than the current disruption, especially as the President Elect (even if Hillary or Bernie) may have a different name in mind.

        1. RED March 23, 2016

          So what? Put a a super left wing judge few months and a) get some stuff straight, and b) remind the Cons what scum bag morons they are! And I mean really left wing, someone who thinks I’m a Cruz supporter, hehe!!

          1. charleo1 March 23, 2016

            Michael Moore, Van Jones, Jon Stewart, Maxine Waters, maybe That would make their little corporate licking pin heads explode!!!

        2. ralphkr March 27, 2016

          Actually, FireBaron, a recess appointment is valid until the CLOSE of the next congressional session (the one that starts in Jan 2017) or until a replacement is validated. Another interpretation states that a recess appointment is valid until a permanent replacement is validated OR until the term of office the temporary appointee is filling comes to an end (interesting point of view since the term of office for a Senator is 6 years but for a Supreme Court Justice it is lifetime).

          By the way, FireBaron, there have been recess appointments to SCOTUS. George Washington appointed Rutledge (not Washington’s brightest decision) and Eisenhower appointed Brennan, Warren, and Stewart

      2. latebloomingrandma March 23, 2016

        Why not? They have dragged us into the rabbit hole for 7 years now.

      3. charleo1 March 23, 2016

        If I’m not mistaken, the Senate hasn’t been allowed to be in technical recess since Obama made a few appointments in this manner shortly after taking office. Other attempts by the President to fill posts where the Senate was kept technically open in 2011, were later ruled not legal by the SC.

    2. charleo1 March 23, 2016

      Yes, absolutely, “tactics unbecoming of the institution McConnell currently leads. But, to a larger point, all institutions the entire Republican Party may lead, serve, represent, and all institutions of gov. which they, by any means at their disposal, might slander, disrespect, mischaracterize, render dysfunctional, or attempt to use in a crass, or unethical way as a political prop, in order to illicit the public’s distrust, and or disdain of the institution of government itself. Indeed their solitary goal has been very overt in this. To be the cause by whatever means necessary, of the discrediting of the very institutions who’s leadership they won on the false platform of making them better.
      Given this obvious lie underpinning their very existence, it is little wonder that Trump, the ostensive, ‘none of the above’ candidate is whipping them all like rented mules. And dragging their conniving, shameless rear ends thru the same mud they had previously reserved for all others. If there is a sweetness at all to Trump, this for yours truly, is definitely it.

    3. ps0rjl March 23, 2016

      Mitchell wants the people to decide. Lately I heard the people only vote for Senators, Representatives, and President. We do not vote for Supreme Court justices. Mitch the bitch needs to do his job, advise and consent.

  2. plc97477 March 23, 2016

    Unfortunately he can lie like he does because he knows the voters in his state won’t hold him accountable for it in fact probably approve of his stance.

    1. charleo1 March 23, 2016

      McConnell may well believe due to his huge campaign war chest, his tenure, and name recognition, he is largely unaccountable to Kentucky voters. But, as Trump is proving, none of this alone will insulate lying, deceitful, two faced political hacks from being thrown out of office on their behinds. He should ask Eric Cantor about this. With an election of huge implications just over the horizon, and with polls showing nearly 2/3 of the public believing McConnell is dead wrong on this, and should do his job. This decision might wind up to be his second epic fail on the heels of his first one in failing to making Barack Obama a one term President.

  3. penguin March 23, 2016

    He lacks integrity… his record shows that he is a man with no sense of integrity. An idealogical political hack who probably sleeps well because of of his pathological belief that he is “right.” and unable to understand his continued obstruction of the very political process he has pledged to uphold. Of course, he cites “God” all the time. A real master of deceit.

    1. CrankyToo March 24, 2016

      He lacks integrity???? Uh, yeah… And the Titanic was a boat.

      This turdball, Mitch the corporate b!tch, is the slimiest piece of sh!t ever to haunt the halls of Congress; a scumbag of the highest order. Wake up Kentucky! And kick that a$$hole to the curb while there’s still a measure of hope for the republic.

  4. Lynda Groom March 23, 2016

    Point number 1 as expressed by the author is not entirely correct. Senator Biden’s comments were made in context of the contentious confirmation hearings held to confirm Justice Thomas. Here is the portion of Biden’s remarks that conservative have twisted into a pretzel in a meager attempt at justfication of McConnell obfuscation and obstructionism.

    ‘I believe that so long as the public continues to split its confidence between the branches, compromise is the responsibile course both for the White House and for the Senate. Therefore I stand by my position, Mr. President, if the President (HW Bush) consults and cooperates with the Senate or moderates his selections absent consultation, then his nominees may enjoy my support as did Justices Kennedy and Souter. But if he does not, as is the Presidents right, then I will oppose his future nominees, as is my right.’

  5. meridaest March 23, 2016

    There needs to be strong advocacy to counteract these cynical lies. The lack of a plain-spoken Democratic leader in a safe state who doesn’t have qualms about attacking the personal values of people like Mitch is painful. Neither Sanders nor Clinton can or will do it because they are running national campaigns. Who will cut the heart out of this monstrous darkness that inhabits the body politic?

    1. jmprint March 23, 2016

      Not Trump nor Cruz. I would rather gamble with Hillary, I feel safer all the way around with her leadership.

  6. 1Zoe55 March 23, 2016

    McConnell’s position of not even having a hearing on the nomination to the Supreme Court by President Obama highlights the weakness in our legislative process. Why should one person, elected from a state that is both small in population and geographical numbers, hold the power to thwart the process of Advise and Consent? At least have the hearing, vote it up or down. Then the voters in the next presidential election will agree with this decision or not. If McConnell and his republicans vote the nomination down, that rejection will help elect Clinton or Sanders to the presidency, and that might be what McConnell is afraid will happen.

    1. jmprint March 23, 2016

      That and the fact that it gives ONE more accomplishment for Obama, and they can’t have that.

  7. itsfun March 23, 2016

    Mitch McConnell is part of the problem with politicians in DC. Now that he fears losing his power to one not of the establishment, he is in a panic. We desperately need leaders that are not owned by their political parties and lobbyists.

  8. jmprint March 23, 2016

    Mitch McConnel is a worm and he needs to get back is his hole and stay there, can’t stand this useless piece of empty suit.

  9. Marv Nochowitz March 23, 2016

    The constitution clearly states it is the president’s job to nominate Supreme Court Justices. The people are heard through the president they elected. That president right now Barack Obama. It falls to Obama to select the next Supreme Court justice.

  10. Joseph Simmons March 23, 2016

    Mitch McConnell confirms once again that the power of seniority is the reason he is re-elected. The only way the United States can progress is by returning control of Congress to the Democrats. Republicans cannot be trusted with power.

  11. Thomas Martin March 27, 2016

    Strategically, the repubs blew it. The Senate should have held hearings and voted straight up or down. This all would have been over with by now. Now we get to live with all the hot air and bs for months to come.


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