The NRSC chairman and his boss Mitch McConnell are the real authors of the Alabama debacle.
If you’re looking for an understanding of the bone-grinding groupthink stupidity of a political elite, one effective means of doing so is to watch Being There, a 1979 movie starring Peter Sellers as a mentally retarded gardener on the estate of a wealthy Washington, DC businessman who is thrust, through a series of misunderstandings and the vagaries of luck, into the top of the societal upper crust.
Sellers’ Chance the Gardener, recast by the elite numbskulls as Chauncey Gardiner the budding presidential candidate, might have been a good template for a Colorado Senator of a similar name. That being Cory Gardner, who for some reason is the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee at the behest of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Gardner gave a statement begging the question as to whether he boasts any further intellectual development than Sellers’ character did in the movie.
“Tonight’s results are clear – the people of Alabama deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate,” said Gardner. “I hope Senator-elect Doug Jones will do the right thing and truly represent Alabama by choosing to vote with the Senate Republican Majority.”
Sure he will.
It ought to be remembered that before giving a thumbs-down to Moore, the people of Alabama first gave a thumbs-down to Luther Strange, the Establishment puppet Gardner and McConnell tried to foist on them with some $10 million in national campaign funds poured into the race. Some $4 million of that lucre was spent carpet-bombing the one decent candidate in the GOP primary, that being Rep. Mo Brooks – a reliable conservative member of the House Freedom Caucus without any major scandal or defect in his background other than his perceived resistance to being controlled by McConnell.
Destroying Brooks was the way McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund and Gardner’s NRSC could drag Strange over the finish line to the GOP nomination, something which proved insurmountably, and predictably, difficult. Strange, after all, was the “incumbent,” but not an elected one; he had been the Alabama Attorney General appointed to the seat left open by Jeff Sessions when the latter accepted the Attorney General job in the Trump administration, and his appointment had been panned statewide as the fruit of a poisonous tree. It was widely perceived that Strange had gone easy on disgraced governor Robert Bentley, who was embroiled in a sex-and-corruption scandal but managed to skate with only a resignation, and the stench from the Senate appointment was more than Alabama voters could stand.
Still, McConnell and Gardner thought if Strange’s runoff opponent was noxious enough he could survive, and that’s where Roy Moore came in. By carpet-bombing Brooks, they created Moore, the most famous political figure in the state not currently holding office, as the “anti-establishment” grassroots candidate — and they figured Moore’s serial gaffes and general lack of charisma would keep him from besting Strange.
And their strategy worked. They got Moore in the runoff with Strange. Score one for Washington meddling in Alabama elections.
But only one, because things went very badly from there. Even with a decidedly unenthusiastic endorsement from President Trump in the runoff, Strange’s campaign broke down against Moore and he was beaten easily. Now Gardner and McConnell found themselves in a rather untenable position of having produced the worst possible GOP nominee after blowing millions of dollars in a Republican primary in a deep red state, money which can’t be used in battleground Senate elections next year to grow the GOP majority. Worse, that worst nominee now had an ax to grind against McConnell and would be quite vocal in his efforts to grind it.
Roy Moore in the Senate was the worst possible result for McConnell. Is it therefore a surprise that Moore’s sure-fire victory was derailed by a series of sexual harassment and abuse allegations emanating from the Washington Post, the news organ famous for hit pieces on anti-establishment conservatives?
Yes, you ask, but isn’t Roy Moore a jackass? Wasn’t supporting a man like him too much for anyone to ask?
Of course he’s a jackass. If he wasn’t a jackass McConnell and Gardner wouldn’t have propped him up as Strange’s chosen runoff opponent. If he wasn’t a jackass none of this would have required the intelligence the Republican elites so clearly lack. A Roy Moore who was simply a solid conservative willing to take on the controversial issues of the day would be a Mo Brooks, and if the voters of Alabama wanted that in a Senator then McConnell and Gardner would have little choice but to make peace with him once he was sworn in.
This entire debacle was an exercise in denying the people what they wanted, not to mention attempting to cover up their own mistakes. That Gardner, McConnell, and the rest of the Establishment mouthpieces have fanned out across the media spectrum to tell GOP voters of the virtues of last night’s result is perfect evidence of this.
And let’s not excuse Moore for losing that race. While most of the allegations against him carried the stink of a late-game political assault, to say he effectively answered them would be a lie. Moore’s campaign fluctuated between cagey dishonesty and blithering conspiracism in its attempts to put out the fire of those allegations, and almost managed to survive them mostly due to similar accusations being made against Al Franken. Then, when the firestorm had largely burned itself out and Moore returned to a lead in polling, his campaign proceeded to fold its tents, holding only one campaign rally in the final week before the election. Moore spent the Saturday before the vote out of state attending the Army-Navy football game rather than campaigning, and he sent surrogates – very bad ones, as it turned out – to make statements to the media. That didn’t go well; his campaign spokesman Ted Crockett made a complete ass of himself in an interview with Jake Tapper, getting dragged into a discussion of whether Muslims can hold office without swearing themselves in on a Bible, and his wife answered questions about his perceived anti-Semitism by noting that one of Moore’s attorneys is a Jew.
Not to mention the election-night campaign email soliciting donations for help to get supporters to the polls which hit email boxes long after those polls had closed.
It was precisely the kind of performance McConnell and Gardner were counting on in the primary, but thanks to the incompetence of their machinations it took place in the general election. And now the Republican majority is down to Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote.
Perhaps the tax reform bill sitting in a conference committee as of Wednesday morning can be saved, but it will be the last item on the GOP agenda to pass through the U.S. Senate before next year’s midterm elections.
That might be Mitch McConnell’s plan all along. At this point it doesn’t matter. This debacle constitutes a betrayal, witting or otherwise, of Republican voters and donors alike, and it’s time for McConnell to step down as the majority leader.
As for Gardner, will someone please take him to the movies? We’ve seen plenty enough of his work.
Sen. Cory Gardner (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)