Friday, July 6, 2018

BTRTN: A Dispatch from the Civility Wars... Screw You, McConnell!

Perhaps Kristin Mink was not the actual catalyst for Scott Pruitt's "resignation." But Steve hopes that she -- and the growing ranks of rogue angry diners confronting Trump officials-- signal a shift from passive disagreement to action.

Sure, there’s been a surfeit of knuckleballs in Crazytown, D.C., these past few weeks, as the United States government has found it harder than anticipated to extricate itself from the baby-snatching business, a Trump Cabinet appointee was so corrupt that he was actually too sleazy even for Donald Trump, and the White House made a grab for power in proposing international trade legislation that bore the acronym F.A.R.T.  Let’s hope Melania’s jacket designers are already at work.

You can say lots of things about Donald Trump, but make no mistake about one thing: this is the luckiest man to ever sit in the Oval Office. He inherits an economy that is so strong that even his best efforts to provoke a trade war have not yet bled its momentum. Kim Jong-Un decides that he wants to bring his country out of the Stone Age, so he plays on Trump’s naïveté and ego to give Trump something that appears to the ill-informed to be an accomplishment. And just as his administration is being vilified across the political spectrum for ripping babies from their mothers' breasts, Anthony Kennedy decides to retire and create an even bigger news story, knocking our humiliating national shame on the Texas border to the C block on cable news.

And yet -- while debate raged on very real issues that will shape our nation’s destiny for generations -- much of the nation’s video bandwidth was allocated to looping iPhone memes of angry diners who have discovered senior Trump officials in their midst and who have seized the opportunity to go First Amendment postal on them. 

The owner of the Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, asked White House Press Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave the establishment. Implausibly, two White House officials who are closely associated with our nation’s heinous new immigration policy – Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and White House Advisor Stephen Miller -- were each the spotted dining at Mexican restaurants. My God, in addition to callous cruelty, ignorance, and vicious exploitation of children, these people can’t even see their own caste irony. Both were pummeled with insults by diners.

Soon after, a young mother named Kristin Mink found herself in the same restaurant as now deposed Environmental Protection Agency chief and Swamp Fox Scott Pruitt. Child in arms, Mink took the opportunity to march over and suggest that he resign for both his utter lack of respect for the environment and his daily parade of self-enriching abuses of power and shameless ethical bankruptcy. Pruitt must have been wondering why his legendary $3mm security force was on a smoke break as he wordlessly absorbed the winnowing assault from a concerned mom. 

Then, California Congresswomen Maxine Waters endorsed the actions of these rogue progressive diners, saying at a rally that “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere,” she added.

Ah, the Fort Sumter of the Civility Wars, with opening salvos in quaint little restaurants all around our capital.

Of course the President of the United States weighed in, having the gall to say, and we quote, “I hope the other side realizes that they better just take it easy… Because some of the language used, some of the words use, even some of the radical ideas, I think they’re very bad for the country.” My God, what words did those filthy progressives use??? Don’t tell me they said “son-of-a-bitch,” “pussy,” or “shithole,”  did they? 

Let’s dispose of all of this stupidity quickly. If Sarah Huckabee Sanders does not want to be asked to leave a restaurant, she could do one of two things. She could pre-screen the restaurant owner to make sure that he or she is as stupid, bigoted, and deceitful as she is. Or she could inaugurate a spanking new policy in which she realizes that her job is to tell the American people the truth about the White House. Simple as that, Sarah. Enjoy the steak tartare in peace. 

Kirstjen and Stephen, bear in mind that the money that is keeping you in guacamole is coming from all those tax-paying patrons at your neighboring tables. Many are sickened by your callous indifference to innocent children and enraged that their tax dollars are being used by you to separate infants from their mothers. Want to enjoy your burritos? Stop operating on the same level as war criminals.

Scott Pruitt, what can we say? When you brazenly line your pockets with the money of taxpayers, you should not be surprised that they seize the opportunity to tell you what a contemptible sleaze bag you are.  Good riddance, you shameless jerk. Time to wave bye-bye and ooze back into the swamp from whence you slithered.

It is absolutely insane for these Republican leaders to lie, steal, cheat, and betray the values of the ordinary Americans who pay their salaries, and then expect that they should be treated with homage, courtesy, and, yes, civility in the public spaces. 

But that’s not what really bugs me.

What truly concerns me is the Democrats and Progressives who are not supporting the actions of the rogue dining patrons who confront the enemy. Yes, there are Democrats and Progressives who worry that they should not engage in a “civility war.”

Time to get real, friends.

We are about to enter into one of the most consequential partisan mine fields in the history of our nation.

A President whose very election is of questionable legitimacy is about to select a Supreme Court Justice who will swing the balance of the court to extreme conservatism for potentially decades to come. That President is indeed choosing the Supreme Court Justice who may decide whether the President needs to comply with a subpoena from the investigators into his own criminality. All this, after the Republican Party shamelessly abused the intent of the Founding Fathers by denying Barack Obama and the American people their constitutional right to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. Meanwhile, that special prosecutor’s investigation into potential impeachable offenses by the President is being slandered and vilified by Republican partisans. All as we head into the most consequential mid-term elections in American history. 

This is no time to be worried about civility. 

Democrats who think they should be “above the fray” had better get down into the fray real fast. 

Want a good example of Democrats not knowing what “entering the fray” is all about? Watch them right now as they run around attempting to invoke “the McConnell Rule.” 

Democrats are crowing that since Mitch McConnell had brazenly abused his power as the Senate Majority leader to thwart Barack Obama's right to fill a Supreme Court vacancy by claiming that no such appointment should be considered in the period leading up to the election, it is only fair that Trump's new nomination should not be considered until after the mid-terms. Why, if Mitch McConnell doesn’t see the fairness in that, then he must be the biggest hypocrite in the world!

Now, hypocrite is actually the most flattering of 25 characterizations of Mitch McConnell I can toss out before breakfast. Mitch McConnell was the guy who famously said that his primary objective as Senate Majority Leader was to make Barack Obama a one-term President. Future historians may well point to that quote as marking the day American democracy ceased to be functional, as McConnell was clearly, overtly, and unambiguously saying that party took priority over nation, that crippling the presidency was more important than serving the people, and that undermining the spirit of democracy was his guiding philosophy and overt intent.

Mitch McConnell is patient zero in the radical polarization of our society that now threatens our very democracy. McConnell signed the death warrant on the collegial “civilized” horse trading that once made the U.S. Senate a working governing entity. A strong argument can be made that Mitch McConnell is worse than Donald Trump. The current President is genuinely ignorant of the institutions, processes, and unwritten rules that have long made our government work. McConnell, on the other hand, knows those institutions intimately, and is brutally tearing them apart for personal and party gain. In rating individuals who have been most effective in damaging our democracy, McConnell is running only a few lengths behind Vladimir Putin.

And now we see the Democrats invoke “The McConnell Rule?” Note to Democrats: There is no goddam “McConnell Rule.” It was complete bullshit in the first place, a gossamer veil that could not possibly cover the cold, gutless, ruthless power play McConnell used to deny Barack Obama and the American people the Supreme Court appointment they had every right to make. 

For Democrats to smugly insist that we now follow “The McConnell Rule” is to concede that McConnell had that right to make such a rule. He did not. No one does. There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution or our law that codifies a mandatory freeze on judicial appointments in the months prior to an election. There is no “McConnell Rule,” and for good reason. Just to offer the most basic critique, there are state and local elections in America every single year. There are federal elections every two years. The supposed “McConnell Rule” does not even spell out how far in advance of an election that court appointments are forbidden.  You could use this rule to effectively argue that no Supreme Court appointment should ever be made.

But worst of all: if they think that invoking the “The McConnell Rule” is going to stop the Republicans from jamming their nominee through the Senate before the mid-terms, they are remarkably naïve. It’s silly. It’s so... civil

This is the most relevant contrast to make as we head into this unprecedented partisan maelstrom: Republicans lie and make up bullshit to justify their abuses of power and their efforts to force a minority opinion on a majority of Americans. Democrats generally play nice.They want to be civil

Wake up, Democrats. The Republicans own the executive branch, the House, the Senate, and now they are going to own the judiciary. They have all they need to ram home this nomination.

And what do you have? 

Well, how’s this? You have the majority of American people. Yes, the majority. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.

If you want to fight Trump’s nomination, you are going to have to do it in the Red Hens all across the United States.

You are going to have to figure out how to turn every meek and retiring “civilized” progressive into Kristin Mink – the kind of real-life action hero who walks up to Scott Pruitt in a restaurant and tells him to his face that he does not deserve to be in his job.

You know the kind of passive people I am talking about… the well-behaved, well-mannered, well-groomed nice people who have made rules that we just don’t talk about politics at cocktail parties

These people need to understand that the United States is one big Red Hen where enough angry voices in unison get heard. They have to leave the pleasant cul-du-sac, postpone the tennis game, and get their neighbors into the S.U.V. and drive down to that big Red Hen called Washington, D.C. 

We need more overt citizen outrage at the atrocities this administration is committing in our names. 

Don’t get me wrong. I don't mean to be saying anything rude or uncivil like “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

It’s actually worse than that. 

If you’re not with us, you’re apathetic. In your inaction, you appear content with your slice of the pie. You like things just the way they are. Down at the Red Hen, you are indistinguishable from a Republican.

And you may be just a little too civil to get the job done that desperately needs to be done. 

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