McConnell plays the press like a fiddle

There is no GOP “reckoning”

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Once again excited about the prospect of the Republican Party "breaking" with Trump, the media gave big play to the story leaked from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office that he "supported" impeachment. Aides to the Republican senator worked the phones hard making sure all the major news outlets had the story:

• "Mitch McConnell Said to be Pleased About Trump Impeachment Efforts" (New York Times)

• "McConnell believes impeachment push will help rid Trump from the GOP, but has not said if he will vote to convict" (CNN)

• " McConnell furious with president, supports move to initiate impeachment proceedings: sources" (Fox News)

The Washington Post stressed that we were were witnessing, "the emergence of what appears to be a genuine political effort to move the party beyond Trump and Trumpism." Axios claimed this was all about securing McConnell’s “legacy.”

But a close reading of the breathless accounts revealed there really wasn't much there. Not only were the McConnell leaks off the record from anonymous sources, the vague language merely suggested that McConnell "supported" the Democrats' actions, he was "done" with Trump, and thought he probably committed impeachable offenses when he helped incite a murderous mob to storm the U.S. Capitol last week.

Additionally, McConnell was making no effort to speed up a possible Senate impeachment trial, which meant the final verdict on Trump would be rendered, anticlimactically, after he left office. (On Wednesday, McConnell officially refused to bring the Senate back into session on Friday to deal with impeachment.)

Basically, McConnell was showered with lots of press coverage that depicted him as bravely standing up to Trump and possibly instigating a full-on GOP revolt, when in fact McConnell is doing nothing of substance to advance the impeachment cause.

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This story is more about backroom jockeying within the GOP, than it is about the party trying to defend the country from a sociopath president. Republicans have shown zero urgency in terms of holding an impeachment vote on Trump. Yet news outlets scramble to paint a picture of a fractured party deeply disturbed by Trump, who has, "brought the Republican Party close to a breaking point," the Times announced last week.

There is no breaking point.  

This is all part of a four-year Beltway media obsession with announcing the Republican Party is finally cutting ties with Trump— usually following an especially erratic and dangerous bout of behavior from him — and that the moment of "reckoning" has arrived. But it never does. The press has dedicated an extraordinary amount of time and resources over the years to advance the idea that Republicans leaders can't sleep at night because they’re so troubled by Trump's actions. This allows journalists to depict today's GOP as mainstream and normal. If key GOP players are despairing over Trump, that means the Republican Party operates within the confines of established American politics. But they're not, and they don't.

The GOP stampede towards the Trump exits remains a mirage because Trump accurately reflects where the party is today: Xenophobic, vulgar, unethical, and uninterested in telling the truth.

The Times this week reported that Republicans leaders in the House had made the procedural decision to not formally whip members to vote against impeachment, a development the paper stressed represented "a tacit break" with Trump. That seems like pretty thin evidence of a break.

"Several GOP sources said on Tuesday that if McConnell supports conviction, Trump almost certainly will be convicted by 67 senators in the impeachment trial," CNN reported. Yes, if McConnell supported impeachment conviction that would be a political death knell for Trump. But there's no indication McConnell supports it. 

When Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) came out in favor of impeachment on Tuesday, journalists were sure it was the start of something big. "An anti-Trump infection is spreading among Hill Republicans," Axios announced. "Rep. Liz Cheney's support for impeachment could open the floodgates for other Republicans," CBS News' Norah O'Donnell tweeted on Tuesday. It was "a sign that the dam could be breaking against Mr. Trump in a party that has long been unfailingly loyal to him," the Times insisted.

Obviously, if the dam were breaking, then 50-plus Republican House members would have voted to impeach Trump on Wednesday. Instead, 10 did, just five percent of the GOP caucus. And it was mostly the same 10 Republican members of the House who have criticized Trump in the past. Overall, there was no evidence of any kind of a Republican repudiation of Trump, even in the wake of the deadly, insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.

Somehow there's still media chatter that a cavalcade of Senate Republicans might vote to impeach Trump. That seems fantastical, considering the vote will come after Trump leaves office. At that point, McConnell's main goal, and the central objective of the entire GOP, will be to deny the new Democratic president any political wins.

The idea that a dozen-plus Republican senators will hand deliver an impeachment conviction to Democrats just as Biden settles into the Oval Office makes no sense. Since McConnell hasn't said one word on where he stands on impeachment (only his aides have floated ideas), he can easily rally Republicans against it during the Senate trial, likely arguing the move is "divisive."

One week after an insurrectionist mob breached the Capitol, the Republican Party remains where it’s been for the last four years — refusing to stand up to Trump’s criminality. No matter what the McConnell spin is.

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🚨 GOOD STUFF:

The more we learn, the scarier it gets. From Politico’s “Dems Demand Details of ‘Suspicious’ Capitol Visitors Day Before Attack”:

More than 30 House Democrats are demanding information from Capitol security officials about "suspicious" visitors at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 5 — a day before violent insurrectionists swarmed the building — that would only have been permitted entry by a member of Congress or a staffer.

"Many of the Members who signed this letter ... witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex on Tuesday, January 5,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), in a letter to the acting House and Senate sergeants-at-arms, as well as the acting head of the Capitol Police.

🛻 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK

Aaron Watson, “Silverado Saturday Night”

Product placements don’t come more explicit than this. But this is still a great, carefree song about trucks, dirt roads, and summer nights. It’s from Watson’s terrific new album, American Soul.

We can tie one on and come unwound
Turn up the heat when the sun goes down
No, they don't call it a truck bed for nothing
Yeah, you know that's right
Nothing's better than a Silverado Saturday night