Rachel Maddow: Jim DeMint's Shenanigans


h/t Heather for the video.

Rachel Maddow argues that we should have seen it coming: Jim DeMint's insane threat to shut down the federal government through mis-use of Senate rules is part of a long and nefarious tradition of "government is bad" rhetoric from the Right.

My favorite part:

MADDOW: Mr. DeMint, when you spoke to your guidance counselor in high school, did that person really suggest governing as a good career path for you? Because the country does need running, it does need governing. And if you are against that on principle, then government service maybe shouldn‘t be the right fit for you.

Three things Rachel Maddow doesn't mention: first, the total disconnect within the Right-wing mindset between hating the "government" and depending on the government -- Social Security and Medicare -- for their day-to-day lives.

Secondly, that Jim DeMint is doing this to raise his profile among the completely batty GOP base for 2012.

And finally, that these guys have no idea about karma.

Transcript (via MSNBC) below the fold.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I‘ve always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I‘m from the government and I‘m here to help.”

REP. TODD AKIN, MISSOURI: I believe that Ronald Reagan had it right. I‘ve always felt that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I‘m from the government and I‘m here to help.”

REP. RON LEWIS, KENTUCKY: Ronald Reagan once said the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I‘m from the government, and I‘m here to help you.”(END VIDEO CLIPS)

MADDOW: What if you are the government, though? Does that mean you shouldn‘t try to help? What are you trying to do with your job in government if trying to help is a very bad thing? What else could you do in government?advertisement | ad info

You know, what happened today in Washington we should‘ve seen it coming back. We should have seen it coming back in February. In February, most of the country was mortified when Republican Senator Jim Bunning, a lone senator with the reputation for eccentricity—Jim Bunning personally stood up and used his power as a senator to stop unemployment benefits for the country. Remember that?

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Jim Bunning turned himself into a one-man roadblock as Democrats tried to pass an extension of unemployment benefits through the Senate.


SEN. AL FRANKEN, MINNESOTA: Is there objection?

SEN. JIM BUNNING, KENTUCKY: Senator from Kentucky objects. I‘ll be here as long as you‘re here and as long as all those other senators are here. And I‘m going to object every time.(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: And object he did over and over and over and over again and over and over and over and over again. Senate rules allow that. And sometimes when you‘ve got a guy like Jim Bunning, people who are unemployed through no fault of their own, get cut off from unemployment benefits because of that one somewhat eccentric senator has decided he‘s got a problem with it.
When that happened back in February, we should‘ve seen then what was coming today, because after Jim Bunning finally relented back in February, after this millionaire ex-baseball player finally gave up his crusade against the unemployed, we should have seen what happened today in Washington coming. When the whole country was pretty much mortified by what Jim Bunning had done.
But one very important very small constituency felt otherwise. They were not at all horrified by what Jim Bunning had done—quite the contrary.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN, TEXAS: I admire the courage of the junior senator from Kentucky, Senator Bunning. Somebody has to stand up finally and say enough is enough.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, ALABAMA: He stood like a solid rock, and he didn‘t give in. And I respect him for the courage he showed.

SEN. JIM DEMINT, SOUTH CAROLINA: Senator Bunning from Kentucky has taken a courageous stand to hold the Democrats—in fact, all of us—accountable to the things that we say we believe.


MADDOW: When Republicans praised Jim Bunning back then, we should have seen what happened today coming. We should have seen it coming a month after the Jim Bunning fiasco too, when health reform faced its final passage in the Senate. Health reform had already passed the House at this point. It already passed the Senate once before. The Senate was just taking up some final fixes to the bill. Health reform was going to pass.

But Republicans—remember this? Republicans decided their strategy against it at that point what they wanted the big show boat of resistance to be at the end would be keeping the Senate in session until 3:00 in the morning. Remember this? Well, they voted on amendments that were essentially laugh lines.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: One of the Republican amendments wants a public referendum in the District of Columbia on gay marriage. Another Republican amendment wants us to go after the organization ACORN, which just announced its bankruptcy. Another amendment says no prescription Viagra for rapists.


MADDOW: These amendments had nothing at all to do what was going on policy-wise. It was a just for show effort by Republicans to stop health reform for a while, for the sheer performative pleasure of being seen to be stopping it. It wasn‘t a real effort to stop the bill. It was an effort by Republicans to show what they were capable of doing, capable of doing by just blocking it for a while until late at night, just stopping any progress from happening for the sake of showing that they could. Not making any progress on their own, just stopping things.

We should have seen then what was coming today. Because today, a lone Republican senator, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, threatened essentially to shut down the federal government using the power that one senator has under Senate rules.

Quoting from “Roll Call” newspaper, “Senator DeMint warned his colleagues that he would place a hold on all legislation that has not been cleared by his office before the close of business Tuesday.” Any piece of legislation not personally cleared by Jim DeMint will be blocked by Jim DeMint. It is a threat that “Roll Call” newspaper described as, quote, “remarkable.”

Among the things that the Senate has yet to pass and which Senator DeMint could presumably block is a stopgap spending measure to keep government—to keep the government operating past September 30th.
So, Senator DeMint, in effect, is now threatening to shut down the entire government. A government shutdown like the one we had back in the ‘90s under Newt Gingrich. A few key differences here, though. For one thing, right now, it‘s just a lone Republican senator without a leadership position who is threatening this. In 1995, at least, Mr. Gingrich was the Republican speaker of the House.

The other difference is that the government shutdown in 1995 was at least theoretically about something. It was about Republicans wanting President Clinton to cut Medicare and Medicaid and education. This time around, Mr. DeMint is not even bothering to make a case that it is about anything. It‘s not that Jim DeMint wants some legislative thing he‘s not getting.

Like—remember when that Alabama Republican senator earlier this year put a blanket hold on all of the president‘s judicial nominees because he wanted some pork for his district? This is not that. This is not “I‘m trying to get this one earmark, this one policy thing changed and if I don‘t get it I‘m going to shut down the government.” This is just “I‘m going to shut down the government.”

This is just “I can and so I shall.” This is shutting down the government for the pure ideological joy of shutting down the government. It is the fetishization of government shutdown. It is the full fruition of the idea that governing itself is bad.

If you campaign for generations on the idea that government itself is bad, that governing is bad, that policy is bad, that having a legislature that legislates is bad, that the nine scariest words in the English language are “I‘m from the government and I‘m here to help,” because government can never help, it only hurts and government must be stopped. When you campaign on that for generations, then ultimately, your anti-government movement births politicians who stop government, who shut it down for no other reason than that they can because they think it‘s intrinsically good to do so.

And if you do not believe me, explain to me why this idea of a government shutdown keeps getting brought up by the right this year.


REP. LYNN WESTMORELAND ®, GEORGIA: If the government shuts down, we want you with us. We want you with us.(APPLAUSE)

WESTMORELAND: We got to have you. We got to have you.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: So shutdown as possible.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: If the president wants to push it.

DICK MORRIS, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: There‘s going to be a government shutdown. Just like in ‘95 and ‘96, but we‘re going to win it this time.


MADDOW: Government shut down, woo!

Understand these arguments are not about shutting down the government for any reason, for any one unbearable thing. It‘s not a last resort way for Republicans to try to get this one thing that‘s very important to them that they can‘t get any other way. It‘s not that. They just want to shut down the government. Any policy excuse to do that is as good as any other.

And Jim DeMint has now just decided that the whole policy hook, that‘s beside the point. Shutdown itself is good because governing itself is bad, governing itself must be stopped. Legislating itself is evil and must be stopped—which is a relatively cogent sentiment coming from someone with a black bandanna over their face running with a “Smash the State” banner at a WTO summit in the ‘90s or something. But coming from a member of the United States Senate?

Mr. DeMint, when you spoke to your guidance counselor in high school, did that person really suggest governing as a good career path for you? Because the country does need running, it does need governing. And if you are against that on principle, then government service maybe shouldn‘t be the right fit for you.
The government shutdown back in 1995, the Gingrich shutdown, cost American taxpayers about $800 million. These things are not free.

Mr. DeMint today threatened to do it again just for the sake of doing it again. Jim DeMint wanting to do this is not surprising given how radical his own politics are.

So far, the supposed Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has had no comment on Mr. DeMint‘s threat to shut down the government.

Watch to see how other Republicans and conservatives respond, though, to what Jim DeMint is doing. In policy terms, it is a little spooky about the Senate, that one senator can shut down the entire government if he decides to. In policy terms, it‘s a little spooky.

In political terms, it is even more spooky, if it turns out that Jim DeMint in this case is not standing alone.


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