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Old 10-23-2019, 03:23 PM
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What is Mitch McConnell's genius?


I always hear about how savvy and competent McConnell is, and was just wondering how so. He has certainly been willing to obliterate norms and resort to underhanded tactics, but a willingness to take the low road doesn't necessarily mean he's a sharp operator. I'm not doubting this evaluation of McConnell's abilities, I'm just wondering when/where he has shown particularly good political maneuvering. Thanks!
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:34 PM
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He mainly obstructs, only preventing the senate from doing anything unless the Republican constituency and/or the party financiers are heavily in favor of it. He also recognizes the many weaknesses of the Democrats, mainly related to their inability to cooperate and their fear of offending their own constituents.

It's the same ability any good politician has, reading the room and counting votes, except that it's much easier with his approach of doing as little as possible.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:36 PM
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I always hear about how savvy and competent McConnell is, and was just wondering how so. He has certainly been willing to obliterate norms and resort to underhanded tactics, but a willingness to take the low road doesn't necessarily mean he's a sharp operator. I'm not doubting this evaluation of McConnell's abilities, I'm just wondering when/where he has shown particularly good political maneuvering. Thanks!
You already nailed it without realizing it. His willingness to take the low road is what makes him a genius. Until he came along the senate majority leader did not do things like hold up SCOTUS nominations for partisan gain. McConnell knew that he could do that and get away with it, thus the genius of his tactics.
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Old 10-23-2019, 03:36 PM
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Old story about two football managers (soccer). One had great tactics and his players played sublime and beautiful football. Won the square root of fuck all. The other played a ruthless, physical and simple game. Very ugly to watch. Had an overflowing trophy cabinet.

The moral of the story is that results matter. Same in politics. Getting outcomes you want is the ultimate aim. Winning ugly matters less u5han winning.
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Old 10-23-2019, 06:05 PM
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Yeah, but winning the game is pointless if you burn down the stadium.
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Old 10-23-2019, 06:17 PM
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Yeah, but winning the game is pointless if you burn down the stadium.
For Republicans of today, that is a feature, not a bug.
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Old 10-23-2019, 06:18 PM
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I don't accept the label of genius, I do bestow the label of rat cunning.
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Getting outcomes you want is the ultimate aim.
+1
Politics is the art of the possible.
To make things impossible for your opposition counts as a resounding win in most, if not all, political jurisdictions

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Yeah, but winning the game is pointless if you burn down the stadium.
Not if you don't accept the premise that there needs to be a stadium.
The old "I just want to shrink it [the US government] down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." viewpoint
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Old 10-23-2019, 06:41 PM
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I've always understood that there were byzantine internal rules for each house, which some of the more elder members knew how to manipulate. Maybe he is of that sort.

But I think his main "genius" is being from a safe state, which gave him seniority. I'm sure he has a strong history of rewarding the craven and punishing the independent. Combine that with a ruthless pursuit of party advantage with ZERO consideration of public interest, and there you have it.
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Old 10-23-2019, 07:15 PM
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You already nailed it without realizing it. His willingness to take the low road is what makes him a genius. Until he came along the senate majority leader did not do things like hold up SCOTUS nominations for partisan gain. McConnell knew that he could do that and get away with it, thus the genius of his tactics.
I would think there must be more to it than that. A willingness to take the low road for political gain isn't genius, it's just shamelessness in the service of expediency. I suppose one could argue that it was a sharp reading of the political winds to foresee that such tactics wouldn't result in backlash from his party, but I don't think he needed a crystal ball to see that.
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Old 10-24-2019, 11:29 AM
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He is no genius. He's just good at exploiting the rules when it benefits him and changing the rules when that benefits him. He is singularly focused on bringing one-party rule to the US and doesn't give a damn about fair debate and due process. He is a monster, not a genius.
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Old 10-24-2019, 12:18 PM
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He is a monster, not a genius.
I don't see them as mutually exclusive. One has to do with morality, the other with talent.

Yes, Mitch McConnell is a horrible human being. But I still have a perverse admiration for his skill in playing the black pieces.

One major insight of his is that there isn't a big news story - and definitely not an ongoing story - to be made out of doing nothing. There's not going to be a "the House passed the Miraculously Solves All Our Problems Bill eight months ago, and the Senate still refuses to act on it" story. The only way it can become a story is if enough people are out there agitating for passage of the Miraculously Solves All Our Problems Bill, angrily questioning Senators about it at town halls and the like, and probably not even then. And Mitch knows that. So when Nancy Pelosi shepherds 142 terrific bills through the House, he knows there's no political cost to ignoring them.

This was particularly noticeable when he sat on Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court. Before too long, it just drifted right out of the news. By mid-2016, Senate was still ignoring Merrick Garland, Generalissimo Francisco Franco was still dead, and both stories were equally newsworthy.
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Old 10-24-2019, 01:18 PM
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This was particularly noticeable when he sat on Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court. Before too long, it just drifted right out of the news. By mid-2016, Senate was still ignoring Merrick Garland, Generalissimo Francisco Franco was still dead, and both stories were equally newsworthy.
His skills lie entirely in his lack of moral conscience. He knows what the right thing to do is and instinctively acts against anything that will seem in any way bi-partisan -- traditional norms and greater good be damned. He's figured out that strength does not lie in compromise . It lies in the ability to wield power. He is Machiavelli, incarnate. Once he loses his power, having spent all his political capital and broken more than he can ever recant or repair, he will step down and disappear from the public arena entirely. Not in shame but in sullen victory.
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Old 10-24-2019, 02:03 PM
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This was particularly noticeable when he sat on Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court. Before too long, it just drifted right out of the news. By mid-2016, Senate was still ignoring Merrick Garland, Generalissimo Francisco Franco was still dead, and both stories were equally newsworthy.
I think this was partly Obama's and Democrat's negligence. He should have spent his last year in office shouting bloody murder from his bully pulpit. Democrats should have organized mass rallies at McConnell's house to protest. Instead, we got "Well they're gonna fuck us over but what ya gonna do?"
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Old 10-24-2019, 02:33 PM
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I agree that that was partly Obama's negligence. There weren't going to be any mass rallies for Garland. Who, of the sort who might be arsed to participate in a protest of any sort, would have cared all that much about him?

Now if he'd nominated someone who progressives passionately supported (Elizabeth Warren might've been good), that might've happened. But he went with a judge that the GOP claimed to be OK with. Oops.
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Old 10-24-2019, 02:46 PM
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I think RTFirefly hit a point, which is that not even Democrats themselves were enthused about Garland, a moderate. If Obama wanted to fire up his base, he could have picked a deep-blue justice to replace Scalia (who still would have stood zero chance of getting past McConnell) but at least the Democrats would have cared about.
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Old 10-24-2019, 05:26 PM
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McConnell, IMO, is a very successful sociopath. He lies constantly, tears down societies old standards, has no empathy but is very efficient at his job. He has blocked pretty much every bill the democrats proposed.

The only time he kind of got outsmarted was when McCain didn't vote for the skinny repeal for the ACA. But then I think they just put it in the supply side tax cut and got it passed that way.
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Old 10-24-2019, 05:45 PM
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I always hear about how savvy and competent McConnell is, and was just wondering how so. He has certainly been willing to obliterate norms and resort to underhanded tactics, but a willingness to take the low road doesn't necessarily mean he's a sharp operator.
He's sharper at (A) finding a lower road, and (B) exploiting our reluctance to believe he will actually go that low, and (C) understanding that this is what his constituency wants.

This will stop seeming clever once there are no lower roads to take, or the Democrats start expecting his callow shenanigans, or his constituency stops buying it. Then we'll just remember him for being the guy who lowered the bar.

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Old 10-24-2019, 10:25 PM
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I always hear about how savvy and competent McConnell is, and was just wondering how so. He has certainly been willing to obliterate norms and resort to underhanded tactics, but a willingness to take the low road doesn't necessarily mean he's a sharp operator. I'm not doubting this evaluation of McConnell's abilities, I'm just wondering when/where he has shown particularly good political maneuvering. Thanks!
You ever hear about how many conservative judges Trump has appointed? McConnell deserves at least half of the responsibility for that. Trump proposes, but McConnell implements. That's his real genius.

Here's a series of charts comparing recent presidents and their judicial nominees at the same point in each administration.
https://www.heritage.org/judicialtracker

This has similar but somewhat different information, arranged somewhat differently.
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgo...meets-the-eye/
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Old 10-25-2019, 02:41 AM
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His skills lie entirely in his lack of moral conscience. He knows what the right thing to do is and instinctively acts against anything that will seem in any way bi-partisan -- traditional norms and greater good be damned. He's figured out that strength does not lie in compromise . It lies in the ability to wield power. He is Machiavelli, incarnate. Once he loses his power, having spent all his political capital and broken more than he can ever recant or repair, he will step down and disappear from the public arena entirely. Not in shame but in sullen victory.
This.
I'm uncomfortable with calling it "genius" as some have in this thread (and the OP of course).

There's a certain level of smarts required for achieving what McConnell has, sure.

But a bigger part of why other leaders have not done what he's done, is simply that they were capable of feeling guilt, or shame. Or they felt any degree of obligation to fulfill their official duties to the electorate / constitution.

For your other point, I'm more interested in wondering what is going to happen to the senate. People have said for years that the senate does not get enough done, but geez, it's a joke now. You may as well replace it with a road block and a TV showing fox and friends on a loop.
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Old 10-25-2019, 10:45 AM
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Genius would mean that, in his particular area, he has some ideas that are both really good, and that other people haven't thought of. I don't think he has that. He has ideas people thought of, but dismissed because they had different moral priorities.

It doesn't take a genius to change the rules to make them work for you when you are in charge of the people who make the rules. It does, however, take a certain kind of ruthlessness to be willing to break everything. It requires not caring about the damage you will do.
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Old 10-25-2019, 12:19 PM
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I agree that that was partly Obama's negligence. There weren't going to be any mass rallies for Garland. Who, of the sort who might be arsed to participate in a protest of any sort, would have cared all that much about him?

Now if he'd nominated someone who progressives passionately supported (Elizabeth Warren might've been good), that might've happened. But he went with a judge that the GOP claimed to be OK with. Oops.
Yes, the Democratic voters pretty much have shown that they won't give 1/10 as much attention to the judiciary as Republican voters do. But Obama should have been screaming bloody murder and other Democrats should have said fuck you we're shutting down the government until you give Garland a vote. Being willing to stoop lower than your adversary is not a sign of genius.
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Old 10-25-2019, 01:22 PM
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I think this was partly Obama's and Democrat's negligence. He should have spent his last year in office shouting bloody murder from his bully pulpit. Democrats should have organized mass rallies at McConnell's house to protest. Instead, we got "Well they're gonna fuck us over but what ya gonna do?"
Obama saw Garland as a useful stick to beat the GOP with. McConnell, vice versa. If Hillary had won, McConnell would have simply confirmed him in the lame duck session.
The impasse suited both sides just fine, both of them could have lived with Garland on the bench, but each would have much preferred someone more inclined to their side.

If Obama had really wanted Garland to get a proper look it, he could have forced the issue, by either compelling an adjournment or by summoning an extraordinary session of the Senate.
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Old 10-25-2019, 01:34 PM
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His genius is that, as evil a human being as he is, he is still one of the leaders of this nation.
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Old 10-25-2019, 02:11 PM
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Obama saw Garland as a useful stick to beat the GOP with. McConnell, vice versa. If Hillary had won, McConnell would have simply confirmed him in the lame duck session.

The impasse suited both sides just fine, both of them could have lived with Garland on the bench, but each would have much preferred someone more inclined to their side.



If Obama had really wanted Garland to get a proper look it, he could have forced the issue, by either compelling an adjournment or by summoning an extraordinary session of the Senate.
Yeah Obama was just as bad as McConnell with his master plan of nominating a centrist then simply urging the senate to do it's job.
It was all part of his scheme to ???, and then profit.

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Old 10-26-2019, 02:52 PM
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Yeah Obama was just as bad as McConnell with his master plan of nominating a centrist then simply urging the senate to do it's job.
It was all part of his scheme to ???, and then profit.
Oh for fucks sake grow up. Barack Obama was a consummate politician. He wanted to fill the seat, but if you think for a moment that he didn’t think of or was indifferent to the political advantage that could be had if the Republicans refused hold a hearing, than that’s very silly.
It was a win win situation for him, he got someone he nominated if a vote was held, or if it was not he got a very useful stick to beat the opposition with. In an election year.a

If it had been a “must seat our preferred guy” fight like the Kavanaugh business became, then yes you can be sure he would have been much more proactive and willing to take steps to ensure a vote.

Every damn thing does not have to be zero sum.

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Old 10-27-2019, 12:06 AM
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Oh for fucks sake grow up. Barack Obama was a consummate politician. He wanted to fill the seat, but if you think for a moment that he didn’t think of or was indifferent to the political advantage that could be had if the Republicans refused hold a hearing, than that’s very silly.
You can throw in ad hominems as much as you want; I don't think your speculation makes any sense at all, so yeah I guess I'm thinking something "very silly" and need to "grow up".

Obama had the chance to nominate someone to a lifetime position and therefore have part of his legacy being a (somewhat) liberal-leaning supreme court for a generation.

Instead, your idea, is that he thought there would be political advantage in giving everyone yet another example of the GOP being unscrupulous. Obama was so smart he knew that the GOP would not follow the rules at all, unfortunately he was also so stupid because the stunt turned out to have no political advantage whatsoever -- the base who ignored GOP wrongdoing continued to do so, floating voters continued to float and eventually the GOP filled the seat.

So I disagree with you and think in fact it is your idea that is preposterous. Unless you have some evidence to support it, let's just agree to disagree on that.

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Every damn thing does not have to be zero sum.
And every damn thing does not need to be "both sides". I think "both sides"-ing everything is the real scourge of political analysis in the modern era.

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Old 10-28-2019, 04:26 PM
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Mitch is simply doing as he is ordered to do. When someone gets fed up enough & assassinates him, the GOP leadership in the Senate will continue to do the same.

The criminal conspiracy that employs McConnell has complete control of the party now. No one inclined to defect remains. And since the company Election Systems & Software (ES&S) is part of the conspiracy, they can simply ensure that their comrades continue to be a majority of the US Senate.

Mitch is no genius. He is merely the present figurehead of a conspiracy that will function exactly the same when he's gone. They are all the same.

Mitch just happened to be the "leader" when certain opportunities arose. He's not even really in charge.

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Old 10-28-2019, 09:32 PM
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I always hear about how savvy and competent McConnell is, and was just wondering how so. He has certainly been willing to obliterate norms and resort to underhanded tactics, but a willingness to take the low road doesn't necessarily mean he's a sharp operator. I'm not doubting this evaluation of McConnell's abilities, I'm just wondering when/where he has shown particularly good political maneuvering. Thanks!
His "genius" is that he's willing to take political risks like refusing to consider Merrick Garland. It made Republicans look like assholes and it was unprecedented, but the gamble worked. In the time since, he has turned the senate into a factory for right wing judicial ideologues. McConnell is also one of the few Republicans who has managed to lock horns with Trump in the era of Trumpism and gracefully disengage before getting gored. He didn't do it by kissing Trump's ass either; he simply showed the president how they could work together.
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Old 10-28-2019, 11:29 PM
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I think RTFirefly hit a point, which is that not even Democrats themselves were enthused about Garland, a moderate. If Obama wanted to fire up his base, he could have picked a deep-blue justice to replace Scalia (who still would have stood zero chance of getting past McConnell) but at least the Democrats would have cared about.
I'm guess Obama overestimated the American public, in that the obvious duplicity of the Republicans should have angered them, but did not. I'm not sure at what point abandonment of hope counts as wising up, but I'll agree that Obama did so far too late.
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Old 10-29-2019, 06:12 AM
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Oh for fucks sake grow up. Barack Obama was a consummate politician. He wanted to fill the seat, but if you think for a moment that he didn’t think of or was indifferent to the political advantage that could be had if the Republicans refused hold a hearing, than that’s very silly.
It was a win win situation for him, he got someone he nominated if a vote was held, or if it was not he got a very useful stick to beat the opposition with. In an election year.
I’m not sure I agree.

Grant, for the sake of argument, that Garland would’ve lost that Senate vote. (I said ‘for the sake of argument’.) If so, maybe McConnell sees a different win-win to be had by saying they see no point in even bothering to vote:

1) Obama spends tons of political capital getting a Garland vote, saying, in effect, aw, c’mon, guys, at least give him a vote, doesn’t he deserve that much? Why, it doesn’t even matter if you vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’, only that you put it to a vote; all I’m asking is: just be reasonable! I’m making this a really big deal! And, after their initial show of We-See-No-Point-In-Doing-This reluctance, the GOP eventually makes a big show of being reasonable, just like the President said: holding that vote, now that Obama has made such a big deal out of it. Oh, and the vote is ‘no’.

-or-

2) Obama spends little political capital trying to get Garland a vote; McConnell says he sees no point in even holding a vote; there’s no vote instead of a ‘no’ vote.

If that’s so, then McConnell can say, hey, either way, it’s a ‘no’ result; the question is, how much time and effort does Obama waste trying to get a ‘no’ vote? And if that’s so, then while you can maybe phrase it in terms of Obama gaining political advantage or “a very useful stick”, it seems like it should be phrased in terms of minimizing negatives instead of maximizing positives.

(Again, that’s only if we grant that Garland would’ve been voted down. But if you’re right about Obama being “a consummate politician”, then I see why he’d act like it was a choice between #1 and #2: if he grants that Garland ain’t getting a ‘yes’, then a #2 loss is simply less bad than a #1 loss. McConnell’s choice and Obama’s response make sense if, at that point, neither politician really thought there was a third option, where a ‘yes’ on Garland was a possibility worth considering.)
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Old 10-29-2019, 11:03 AM
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I'm guess Obama overestimated the American public, in that the obvious duplicity of the Republicans should have angered them, but did not. I'm not sure at what point abandonment of hope counts as wising up, but I'll agree that Obama did so far too late.
This is a fair point, and actually I would give McConnell credit for this.
Essentially he saw that many politicians overvalued 'American decency and belief in democracy' and he could profit from selling out (deliberately mixing metaphors).
That does indeed take a level of smarts, although I still wouldn't call it "genius"
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Old 10-29-2019, 12:57 PM
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'American decency and belief in democracy'
This was a poor choice of words. I don't mean all, or most, americans are not decent
I'm just saying a high enough proportion of americans either don't follow politics, only see biased sources or don't care about political dirty tricks / hypocrisy, that the political price was not too much, and that's what McConnell realized.

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Old 10-29-2019, 03:48 PM
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This is a fair point, and actually I would give McConnell credit for this.
Essentially he saw that many politicians overvalued 'American decency and belief in democracy' and he could profit from selling out (deliberately mixing metaphors).
That does indeed take a level of smarts, although I still wouldn't call it "genius"
Cunning.
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