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Posted at 10:10 AM ET, 12/ 3/2010

Mitch McConnell interview

By Jennifer Rubin

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has often been caught in the political crossfire. Liberals have portrayed him as the Darth Vader of the Senate, out to destroy their agenda, devious and intractable. Rock-ribbed conservatives complain that he's been too "squishy." Some groused that he didn't keep the Senate in Washington through the Christmas vacation to argue (and ultimately lose) the cloture vote on ObamaCare. Others were mortified that he backed a more conventional Republican candidate over Rand Paul in the Kentucky Senate primary. But McConnell may have outfoxed them all. Next month, the GOP conference in the Senate will expand to 47, and McConnell told me yesterday in his Capitol Hill office that the timing is "perfect to do entitlement reform," a longtime objective of his.

McConnell says the debt commission was important, not because of today's vote or because of all the particulars of the plan, but because of the tone it set. He explains: "I'm pleased they chose to underscore the dimensions of the problem by making such controversial and far-reaching proposals." He is cautious about specifying which aspects of the plan, or of the Ryan-Rivlin entitlement proposal, he would support, saying only: "I hope at least something comes of it."

Although his wily use of Senate procedure and staunch opposition to tax hikes and other parts of the Obama agenda have made him the bogeyman of the left, McConnell sounds like a man ready to deal. His reasoning is grounded in history and in simple politics. He recalls that when George W. Bush was in the White House, he "couldn't find a single Democrat" willing to sign on to Social Security reform. When one party controls all of government, the temptation is too great for the minority party to sit back and take potshots. However, divided government, McConnell argues, "is the perfect time to do difficult things." He envisions that the Republican House will be sending over a lot of bills attractive to Senate Republicans. "Maybe we can do some of them. Maybe the president will sign some of them."

The key, he is eager to point out, is that 23 Democratic Senate seats are up for re-election in 2012. He observes: "The currency of the realm in this town is the president's job approval. If that is below 50 percent, his party tends to fracture." He smiles: "Rumors tell us that is what is going on today." And he notes that the Democrats convened five long meeting to "argue among themselves." The Democrats running for reelection, he surmises, "may be interested in responding to what the voters were telling us in the election." He likes the phrase "restraining order" to describe what 2010 voters were hoping to accomplish, namely to halt the president and Congressional Democrats' liberal agenda.

Is Obama going to move to the center? McConnell says if a sober advisor were to visit the president, he'd tell Obama that his approval is low, he has "horrible credentials on spending and debt" and "maybe now is the time to do a Clintonian back-flip" to avoid being a one-termer.

So far, McConnell's post-election strategy seems to be working. He enlisted all of his 41 Republican Senate colleagues to sign a letter demanding the Senate deal with taxes and funding the government before getting to the START treaty or other matters. "Life is a series of choices," he says. And indeed, the president and congressional negotiators seem to be closing in on a tax deal while the vote on START waits in the queue.

On other foreign policy issues, McConnell agrees with those who think strong measures are needed to disrupt the Iranian regime's nuclear program: "What I am saying is that we should be squeezing these guys like a lemon." He says he senses, as the WikiLeaks documents suggested, that Arab leaders are deeply worried and believe "only we have the swat" to deal with the threat.

As for Afghanistan, he stands squarely with the Obama administration. "Most, if not all, of my conference believes in what the president is doing," he says. "Gen. Petraeus is the single best person to get the job done." McConnell is pleased that the president is extending the deadline for significant troop withdrawal until 2014. He says the Taliban's perspective is that the U.S. "has the watches and they have the time," meaning they will wait us out if we set a premature end date for our military commitment.

McConnell is clearly pleased about the degree of continuity with the Bush policies on Iraq, Afghanistan and terrorism. He notes that closing Guantanamo and a public trial for Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should "go into the category of lessons learned." "It is one thing to satisfy the ACLU in the middle of a campaign," he observes. But it is another to protect the American people as commander in chief. McConnell prefers to try terrorists at Guantanamo. "We have a $200-million courtroom. I've never seen a $200-million courtroom," he deadpans. He says, to him, it is "largely irrelevant" that "they don't like Guantanamo in Europe." He smiles as he notes that the Obama administration on the war on terrorism, Iraq and Afghanistan "is edging right into where the previous administration was."

The reality of the 2012 presidential campaign schedule suggests that candidates will jump into the race sometime early next year. But McConnell doesn't buy the idea that this means business can't be done. "We've had regularly scheduled presidential elections every year since 1788, and there is no reason why we can't do business." He contends that "if the president pivots to the center, as I think he will, there is no reason we can't continue to do business in 2011 and 2012."

McConnell doesn't seem concerned that Obama, like President Clinton, will reposition himself enough to improve his reelection prospects. "This administration," he says, "has established a reputation for being far left." He adds that there will be plenty to argue about, especially ObamaCare, which he believes will be a "never-ending issue."

McConnell has a well-earned reputation for legislative prowess and for holding a scant conference (which shrank to 39) together. He seems buoyed by the prospect of increased troops on the Republican side, potential allies on the Democratic side and a president whom he believes has no choice but to come back to the center and the Senate, if he wants to avoid becoming a one-term, failed president.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 3, 2010; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  Senate GOP  
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Next: Terrible jobs numbers


Is Homeland Security being abused by Obama - if it is, it is certainly an IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE

In response to the story, former Congressman Bob Barr filed a Freedom of Information Act request which demanded to know if the TSA had categorized those leading the charge against invasive security measures, namely Matt Drudge, Alex Jones, and John Tyner, via the websites and, as “domestic extremists”.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that Homeland Security has engaged in political witch hunts against Americans critical of big government. Earlier this year, Big Sis was caught spying on Tea Party groups as well as State Representative Daryl Metcalfe.

from Alex Jones

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 3, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

McConnell is hardly Darth Vader. Everybody knows that's Cheney. McConnell doesn't even qulify as a Darth at all.

Good morning RFR.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 3, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

So, the King of Pork is gonna fix up America. I seem to remember is plan is to let the unemployed starve to death. No, it's to let all the poor starve to death. Maybe the "reporter" could have asked him why the poverty rate has increased to 1 in 7 Americans while he's been a senator. Reporting or suckinging up. Duh?

Posted by: bestmoneyguy | December 3, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

The 1099 issue for small businesses is just one example of how the Obama have no idea what they are doing when it comes to the economy - and placing massive burdens on busineses.

This is going to lead to incredibly unproductive burdens on the economy as a whole.


Posted by: RainForestRising | December 3, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse


I thought Cheney was Mr. Potter -

I couldn't believe it when Cheney did his impression of Mr. Potter when Obama came into office.

THAT was classic.


Posted by: RainForestRising | December 3, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

until this country gets serious on the war on terror i think it is a joke that mcconnel supports are efforts in Afganastan. while our boys and girls are risking thier lives we are continuing to allow visitors to come into this country from Yemen, Somalia, Saudi arabia etc. and have an unsecured border to our south as we continue to frisk granny at the airports. failed bomb attempts so far time square, christmas day bomber, Im afraid it will take the blowing up of our movie theaters shopping malls, supermarkets and schools to finally get lifelong politicians like Mcconnell to wake up and do what is nesseccary to protect this nation and not to succumb to this PC liberal crap that will only lead to chaos and our destruction.

Posted by: eddiehaskall | December 3, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse


This isn't "our" thread, so we don't want to get everybody talking about Cheney I don't think. That might dredge up a whole other can of worms.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 3, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

This guy McConnell is like every other GOP politician with power. He is good at representing big money while bamboozling his states working class.

Posted by: bm66535 | December 4, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

This dude is a turtle.

Posted by: ozpunk | December 4, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

As soon as we find out just who the Bad Capitalist are and who the Good Capitalist are---our problems will be solve.
Speeding towards a financial meltdown, the Wall Street debacle surfaced from easy money, caused by low interest rates, which promoted the trading of false securities, milking the system, over productions and sale of houses, cars and all real estate in general. Alan Greenspan, not raising interest rate when he should have, may have inadvertently saved the world economies. Why? It exposed the theft, graft, corruption, mismanaged and misguided Wall Street Stock Market. This allowed legislators and regulators to reset and fine tune our financial system along with future oversight and transparency. Now we only need to deal with the problems of Bad Capitalist and Good Capitalist, helping them understand their part in keeping the world economies running smooth. We first need to ask them, are you helping with the solutions or are you part of the problems. I believe the College Frat Parties were a boost to creating more Bad Capitalist than our economies previously had to deal with. If we ask ourselves, “What is a good Capitalist and what is a Bad Capitalist?” Many would like to generalize, like most TV Anchors and Commentators, comparing Capitalism to Communist, Socialist or Kingdoms. You can only generalize with those comparisons. We can be more specific if we compare Capitalist to Capitalist. Are they Good or Bad? Again, it’s Similar to comparing Republicans to Republicans or Democrats to Democrats. You can learn more with fewer misunderstandings this way.
Capitalism is very fragile and in the past, has been abused by all the Mr. Greedy that came along, many gangsters have practiced Capitalism. Communist practice Capitalism, Kingdoms practice Capitalism.
Everyone who believes in Capitalism should be an advocate of good moral standards that can survive the criticism of everyone on earth. You are either a Good Capitalist who gives respect and honor to the civil rights of everyone except those trying to destroy you which could mean terrorist, or a Bad Capitalist who worships money to the extent of participating in activities of any nature that would be immoral, unethical or even disgusting to the point of bullying, name calling, dirty looks or dirty tricks and all of this for a dollar. Leave these tactics to immature children.
Good Capitalist are not depriving employees of decent wages and giving millions to charity to gain respect in their community. Good Capitalist don’t send jobs overseas while accepting security and first class protection from our soldiers giving their lives and limbs while Bad Capitalist send their jobs overseas instead of taking care of their sons, daughters and relatives first.
It is not hard to see, there are Good Capitalist and Bad Capitalist and that is our ONLY PROBLEM.

Posted by: budshi | December 4, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

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