Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post

TheCynicPeter Hamby concludes his Oct 19 Outlook review of Alec MacGillis’s The Cynic, the Political Education of Mitch McConnell by questioning whether the author would have written such a negative appraisal if McConnell were a Democrat. Hamby points out that McConnell’s political skills and tactics, including an encyclopedic knowledge of legislative rules, willingness to abandon previously held positions, and partisanship, are similar to those of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Yet, Hamby notes that Robert Caro called Johnson Master of the Senate in Caro’s book  of the same name describing Johnson’s twelve years in the Senate from 1948-60 including his final six as Majority Leader.

Hamby’s implication is that biographers are more likely to excuse or downplay Democratic bullying and hypocrisy. In fact, the vast gulf in their legislative accomplishments better explains the disparate treatment of the two Senate leaders. McConnell is a faithful servant of certain billionaires and has employed his abilities in furtherance of negative goals like limiting President Obama to one-term in office, limiting the reach of the Affordable Care Act, and preventing a hike in the minimum wage.

In contrast, southern democrat Johnson leveraged his populist credentials and deal-making skills to steer through a bitterly divided Senate civil rights legislation that Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law. As a senator and then President, Johnson successfully challenged powerful interests on behalf of minorities as well as other poor and working-class Americans. This warrants a much more cynical appraisal of McConnell’s legacy, at least to date, than of Johnson’s.

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6 Responses to Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post

  1. Dave says:

    The best defense is a blitz offence. A question answered by a question. Why did my opponent vote for Sarah palin? Get in their face, make em pay

  2. Dave says:

    With security breach at whitehouse and right now attack on canadian parliament it appears the top drawer security organizations are not all that slick.. Their starting to look like mr Magoo.

  3. Jeff Linder says:

    Hal,
    You never cease to amaze. Your inability to actually understand what someone says in unsurpassed.

    You praise the abilities of Johnson because you like what Johnson did. You disparage the abilities of McConnell because of what McConnell did. That is exactly what the author pointed out.

  4. hal says:

    Jeff – of course you are right. Johnson used his talents and the rules to help poor, struggling, and oppressed people. McConnell uses his talents and the rules to hinder poor, struggling, and oppressed people in service of the richest and most powerful. That’s why Johnson is fairly called a Master and calling McConnell a cynic is if anything a compliment given his record.

  5. Dave says:

    What ever Johnson did that was good is over shadowed by the evil.. He is responsible for the death of many innocent people. The illegal bombing in Asia. The coverup of the israelis attack on the USS liberty that left over 30 American sailors dead. Johnson is no hero

  6. Tony says:

    If McConnell were a Democrat, he would have used his position to promote a more populist agenda rather than obstruct policies that benefit the nation as a whole, so Hamby’s conclusion would be technically correct.

    Few conservative policies benefit any but the already powerful, they certainly don’t benefit the majority of even those that vote republican.

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