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Boardman writes: "Mitch McConnell is the guy who made it clear to everyone that he simply didn't care what harm he did to the country as long as he could make Barack Obama a one-term president."

The real question is not who taped Mitch McConnell but was his Senate staff working on his re-election campaign? (photo: AP)
The real question is not who taped Mitch McConnell but was his Senate staff working on his re-election campaign? (photo: AP)

Politics 101 With Mitch McConnell

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

11 April 13


Caught with your pants down? Blame people who look at your butt.

he best part about the tape recording of Mitch McConnell's campaign plans to slime Ashley Judd is the Kentucky senator's masterfully dark political response to questions about to it.

McConnell does not deny the authenticity of the tape of the February 2 meeting at his campaign headquarters, published April 9 by Mother Jones reporter David Corn. [At this point there is no reliable public information about who made the tape or how. Corn received the tape with a condition of confidentiality.]

Nor does McConnell dispute the tape's content or his presence at the meeting where it was recorded. Instead, he says things like this to reporters, as he did, three different ways, on April 9:

Yeah, as I indicated, last month they were attacking my wife's ethnicity, and then apparently, unbeknownst to us at the time, they were bugging our headquarters. Quite a Nixonian move. This is what you get from the political left in America."

Does McConnell's response constitute paranoid raving in the Nixonian mode, or a cold-blooded bit of political judo to turn an embarrassment into an attack, or a heartfelt statement of belief detached from reality, or something else?

To know with anything like certainty, one would have to get inside Mitch McConnell's head, and get out alive. But here are some possible clues:

"My Wife's Ethnicity"

He doesn't say who attacked his wife's ethnicity, whatever it may be.

Turns out his second and current wife, Elaine Chao, is of Chinese descent and was born in Taiwan. She was President George W. Bush's labor secretary and the first Taiwanese American to serve in a president's cabinet in American history.

And the "attack?" The Washington Post politics blog suggests it came from a Democratic Super PAC called Progress Kentucky that sent a Valentine's Day tweet on February 14. The Post provides a link to a page that is gone, but offers this much as the tweet's text:

This woman has the ear of @mcconnellpress - she's his #wife.

May explain why your job moved to #China! ...

So the tweet reveals:

  1. No attack on Elaine Chao's ethnicity;
  2. An implied denigration of her nationality in a global economic context;
  3. An implication of a conflict of interest based on her Chinese connections;
  4. An attack on her (and anyone else involved) for sending American jobs to China;
  5. And the suggestion that she has undue influence on her husband.

So McConnell's response dishonestly goes for the hot button of race, while falsely asserting that race was used against his wife. Clearly, insofar as there is any attack in the tweet, it is aimed at Elaine Chao's role, if any, in the disemboweling of the American economic system by the Bush administration. Whetever Chao's role, the pliant Senator McConnell was at least an accomplice in the Bush administration's economic evisceration of America.

An Aside About the Alleged Tweet Victim

Chao, 60, was the only cabinet member to serve throughout Bush's term, 2001-2009. She was born in Taiwan, immigrated to the U.S. in 1961, and married McConnell in 1993, but her official and unofficial biographies have no mention of her becoming a U.S. citizen.

Her service as Labor secretary, while not particularly contentious, was widely praised by business leaders. Labor leaders tended to think the Labor secretary didn't do much to protect workers.

At least two General Accounting Office reports were critical of the Labor Department under her leadership, and a Congressional committee report found that Chao and other administration officials broke the law by campaigning for Republican candidates while they held public office. No enforcement action was brought.

The tweet ends somewhat provocatively with " ... "

What's that about? Seems the Progress Kentucky people were linking to a report accusing Chao of "racist remarks about U.S. workers" in the July 1, 2007, edition of Parade Magazine that reported:

American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene," says Chao. "They need anger-management and conflict-resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction. Too many young people bristle when a supervisor asks them to do something.

Since American employees come in a variety of ethnicities, it's hard to see Chao's remarks as being racist. That characterization is about as fair as McConnell claiming that Democrats attacked his wife's ethnicity.

"Apparently ... They Were Bugging Our Headquarters"

McConnell, 71, offered no evidence for this speculation.

But he smartly reported that speculation to the FBI, who is pretty much obliged to look into almost any complaint from a sitting senator, no matter how bogus it may appear on its face.

And the play works beautifully for McConnell, not only letting him limit comments because "it's under investigation," but even moreso by baiting credulous news media (such as ABC News) into covering another "Watergate" story instead of asking a calloused old man why he thought it would be all right to attack Ashley Judd for her religious views or her health issues or what her grandmother had to say about her.

It's so much more comfortable for a fundamentally corrupt politician to point fingers at the imaginary skullduggery (or even real skullduggery, for that matter) that produced the tape, rather than being forced to explain the actual contents of the tape by facing such questions as:

  • Who are Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson? Are they legislative assistants in your Senate office? Why were they doing your campaign work while on the public payroll? Isn't this the same way your wife broke the law? Or -
  • When was the last time you had your offices swept for bugs? Since you're now saying you were bugged, you've had your offices electronically swept, right? Or -
  • Can you explain what your assistant means when he says, on the tape, "I've omitted all of her mountaintop removal stuff. It's a whole separate category. It doesn't quite test as well." Does that mean that you're well aware that mountaintop removal is unconscionable, but you don't have the conscience to oppose it? Or -
  • Do you think it's hypocritical of you to consider attacking Ashley Judd for "a multi-million dollar mansion in Scotland" when you have a self-reported net worth in the $40 million range? At least she earned her money honestly as a movie star, didn't she? How did you get all that money by working only in politics?

Not only does McConnell manage to evade uncomfortable questioning, he uses the false claim as a fundraising gimmick - turns it into a twofer, attacking liberals and the media:

"Quite a Nixonian Move"

Here's what would be a Nixonian move - answering the last question about net worth by telling the world, "I'm not a crook."

Here's what would be a Nixonian move, implacably pursuing racial politics against your president, while inventing attacks on your wife's ethnicity.

Here's what would be a Nixonian move, inventing a horrible, imaginary enemy that looks like what you see when you look into yourself.

"What You Get From the Political Left in America"

What? Here's the ultimate Nixonian move, accusing your opponents of being who you are, and make them prove they're not. In another form it was called McCarthyism. It's unscrupulous, dishonest, and divorced from reality - but it frequently works.

It's especially effective when you can get uncritical news media just echoing your chamber of horrors.

This is not what you get from the political left in America. You don't get break-ins and black bag jobs and criminal conspiracies from the left in America. Because, for all practical purposes, there is no left in America.

There is another party and it's happy to carry on your warrantless surveillance of innocent citizens, and to expand your growing police state, and to assassinate inconvenient people with drones, but that's not the left. That's just your party by other means.

Politics of Personal Destruction

Mitch McConnell is the guy who made it clear to everyone that he simply didn't care what harm he did to the country as long as he could make Barack Obama a one-term president.

And, for all the pain he inflicted on the rest of us, he didn't even achieve that.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+86 # LeeBlack 2013-04-11 11:46
It's pretty simple - the best defense is offense - and McConnell can be very offensive.
+27 # mdhome 2013-04-11 18:23
A home grown terrorist is what he is!
+13 # mjc 2013-04-11 12:13
Think many of us were stunned?? by the various comments here. Learned one thing, though: McConnell married Elaine Chao. Given what I know about McConnell, think it is surprising. McConnell's campaign team were ready to go all out to bring Ashley Judd down, with representations of her as just a pretty face and chased away even the old time Dems. Would be hard to believe that he really respects women of the workplace and Chao was one of the better choices for the Republicans and the Bush administration.
+2 # Gogojoe 2013-04-14 14:20
Quoting mjc:
McConnell married Elaine Chao. Given what I know about McConnell, think it is surprising. Republicans and the Bush administration.

You shouldn't be too surprised. Elaine Chao was Sec. of Labor under Bush (W). A more fitting title could've been Secretary of ANTI-LABOR! She is very conservative and no friend to you or I.
+76 # lysechrist 2013-04-11 13:03
Do you think it's hypocritical of you to consider attacking Ashley Judd for "a multi-million dollar mansion in Scotland" when you have a self-reported net worth in the $40 million range? At least she earned her money honestly as a movie star, didn't she? How did you get all that money by working only in politics?

Hmm... elected in 1984 and paid only a Senator's salary. How was the $40 million made?
+31 # Joe Bob 2013-04-11 16:07
CROOK in large neon lights
+2 # ruttaro 2013-04-14 23:04
Two things I don't understand: a) how did he get to $40 million and b) how can he be worth more than the entire state of Kentucky?

Mitch believes that the government safety net should be dismantled in favor of individual charity. With so much poverty in that state Mitch might want to take this opportunity to show everyone how well this canard works. Or is he just smoking 'bluegrass'?
+54 # bmiluski 2013-04-11 13:08
And where was the press with follow-up questions? Oh, that's right.....there were none because they're controlled by the neo-cons.
+7 # Todd Williams 2013-04-12 07:18
See MSNBC for follow ups.
+24 # dick 2013-04-11 13:26
I'm sure SURPRISED & DISAPPOINTED that such a fine southern gentlemen has slipped a time or two. He had been doing ok, for a member of the UnDead. Looks like he still sleeps in a coffin though. I LUV to see him sweating bullets & blood about his re-election. Squirm, Mitchie, Squirm. Imagine being married to THAT.
+7 # robniel 2013-04-12 14:20
McConnell looks like the kid who was chased home from school every day and is now intent on getting revenge.
+38 # Brooklyn Girl 2013-04-11 13:28
Dear Mitch,

Nixon was a Republican, and I am sure you were very proud of him back in the day.

You are a confused old man. Time to retire.
+45 # jack406 2013-04-11 13:30
How did McConnell earn $40 Million dollars as a Senator?
Was it legal?
+24 # Regina 2013-04-11 15:43
Who says he earned it? Maybe he was just paid the money -- for political services rendered.
+9 # robniel 2013-04-12 14:21
Quoting jack406:
How did McConnell earn $40 Million dollars as a Senator?
Was it legal?

He's a great salesman. He sells votes.
+26 # michelet3 2013-04-11 13:38
You got that right! Let's get a candidate in Ky. who will get him out of there!
+3 # Todd Williams 2013-04-13 07:54
There was a potential candidate who might have beaten the old fart. Her name is Judd. Just look what the Rethug machine did to her.
+29 # Vardoz 2013-04-11 13:40
These guys have one agenda and that is to stay in power even if they have to steal an election and destroy all opponents. They also want to make sure our Democracy is dead and the middle class and the 99% are impoverished from lack of jobs, livable wages, and they get a hard on just thinking about taking away our entitlements- I'm sorry Judd backed down. These guys are willing to tear everything down that is vital for the majority of our citizens and the health of our economy to make sure they and the rich stay rich and that goes for all the Democrats who failed us when they had both houses- So call your reps and vote the bad apples out if you can. Its theleast we can do- even seniors have not gotten out to protest the cuts in the chained CPI - The Hispanics stormed DC - So what's with us?
+22 # MainStreetMentor 2013-04-11 13:45
Mitch McConnell has just enough IQ to pick the lint from his belly-button ... and wipe his backside. Outside of those limitations of IQ he's a: ZERO.
+22 # Ladidah 2013-04-11 13:48
This man is a throw-back to the dark AGES.
I wish he would crawl back under the rock he came from.
+23 # Billy Bob 2013-04-11 15:07
WRONG! I'm offended!

I think he's more of a throw-back to some time in the Pre-Cambrian Epoch when slime ruled the Earth.
+13 # cafetomo 2013-04-11 13:54
There is certainly no Left in America fitting of his description. Recognition of what we despise most in others, comes from it's potential being in ourselves. The indulgence of which is most easily hidden in the preemptive sanctimony of deafening accusation.

Or as we say around here;
Them what smelt it, dealt it.
+29 # angelfish 2013-04-11 13:54
"Aunt Blabby" clearly can't take the heat so naturally he's on the attack. He's ALWAYS on the attack because he's ALWAYS wrong on most issues. Kentucky and the Country will be SO much better off when he is ousted from his "catbird" seat. Are you listening, Kentucky? Get RID of this Hemorrhoid on the rear-end of your State! The relief will be ALMOST instantaneous once he's gone!
+25 # DPM 2013-04-11 13:57
You know, I'd like to say that McConnell is the biggest slimeball in government, but he has so much competition for "biggest", I just can't decide. But for now, "McConnell! You're the biggest slimeball in congress." A*s!
+11 # Billy Bob 2013-04-11 14:58
That's always a tough call. So many of them are trying to compete for it. They complain that it's just a popularity contest, but I'd McConnel should certainly be a finalist in this year's bidding.

From here, I think it all comes down to the swimsuit competition. Given the nature of the competition, Macho Mitchie may have the inside track there as well.
+26 # Billy Bob 2013-04-11 14:55
The real political magic of McConnel is that his tit-for-tat accusation took the media's scrutiny off of the fact that HE is being accused of committing a FELONY.

That's right. He, using taxpayer funded staff to dig up "dirt" on potential oppnents IS not only "Nixonian", but a felony.

Is the F.B.I. looking into this?
+4 # mdhome 2013-04-11 18:40
He most certainly is a homegrown terrorist, where is the drone with a special delivery for him?
+31 # Barbara K 2013-04-11 14:58
I don't think the Dems are responsible for the leaked tape. And it is pure stupidity for him to waste FBI time for something most likely done by one of his friends. He's just so psssssst that the nasty stuff he said got recorded. I'm glad it did. It shows him for just the jerk he is. $40 Million dollars in bribe money. Hope he's tossed out on his ears and soon. FBI should be investigating him and how he got all that money.

+16 # oakes721 2013-04-11 16:09
Bitching Mitch is FILTHY Rich...
Thou Protesteth Too Much.
-1 # da gaf 2013-04-12 12:05
mitt looks like an ugly pedophile-dress ed up as a ?..what ever- perhaps he is actually a large cockroach with a suit on!
0 # cynnibunny 2013-04-12 16:33
Rather silly for you to take McConnell to task for giving a lying and extremist response to your original criticism. It makes me forget the point that you were making. Umm, what was that point? Hmmmm.... seems McConnell's smokescreen has worked with me!

Stick to your point! Don't get caught up in tit-for-tat! For that is what the whole Right-Wing Media Cooptation is all about.

If they get you distracted once, and you go and spend your time attacking their bull, then shame on him.

If they get you distracted again, and you go and spend your time attacking more bull, wasting your time doing nothing, THEN SHAME ON YOU!

The right wing noise machine wants to do this:
1) Cloud the major issues of the day with disinformation, lies, and divisive tactical 'news events';

2) Make the public so tired of the back and forth bull going on 'in politics land' that the public tune out. This reduces the texture of the news to a flat, They said/ We said, one dimensional unending argument;

3) Keep the public caught up in the cycle of buy, buy, buy and TV shows confirming the warm and fuzzy beliefs of our day.

By the way, it works. When Romney was sailing into the presidency, it was only his total lack of intelligence that saved Obama (and Obama's ground game). And of course the non-stop clear statements and gutsy-ness of candidates who addressed our real issues (like Elizabeth Warren).

It takes staying on message to stay effective. Don't waste time on tit-for-tat.
0 # C. Winslow 2013-04-24 13:36
Very good points, Cynnibunny! A great number of our government leaders are neither liberal or conservative, moral or immoral, democratic or republican; they are bought. McConnell is like the golfer who cannot hit the ball very far or with accuracy, who cannot stop it on the green, but is great at scrambling around the green to turn a seven into a five (after surreptitiously improving his lie several times). McConnell's few comments on economics, e.g., the relationship between NI and Debt, show how unsophisticated and uninstructed he is. Like others of his ilk, a sorta light comes onto his face when he is about to say something he thinks is analytic but is really banal. something he thinks is progressive but was discounted in 1963. On the day when McConnell found out he had failed his kindergarten entrance exam, he knew that the only thing he could succeed at was to become a senator from Kentucky.

And, for the nonviolent, there is no political answer to his malevolence and decrepitude. If he loses an election, he can make even more money by opening a consulting firm. Only an old tactic used in Greece and Japan might be a credible threat. SHUNNING! If we can get all estimable persons to refuse to meet with McConnell, invite him for speaking engagements, not allow him onto university campus, we might find some means to combat the outrageous choices he makes. Only being shunned and scorned could possibly threaten him.

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