Opinion: Mitch McConnell's confidence is being put to the test

While Biden and McCarthy are locked in a game of chicken over the debt limit, McConnell reassured the nation that all will work out in the end.

Opinion: Mitch McConnell's confidence is being put to the test

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Bertrand Russell, in his 1959 book 'Common Sense and Nuclear Warfare', compared nuclear brinksmanship between nations to the game 'chicken', which he described as a game played by 'young degenerates.

Two cars race toward each other in a straight line. As they get closer, mutual destruction is more likely. When one of them misses the white line, the other shouts "Chicken!" as they pass. Russell wrote: "The one who swerved is now a target of contempt."

The new chicken game in Washington is the standoff that has developed between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden over raising the debt limit of the country. If they continue on their current course, the US may default on its debts for the first ever time, destabilizing stock markets and the world's most secure investment. They could also throw hundreds of thousands out of work, and stop Social Security and benefit payments.

Mitch McConnell is a veteran in debt limit battles. He said not to worry. McConnell said that despite what was publicly stated after yesterday's meeting, an agreement would be reached by Joe Biden, Kevin McCarthy and the United States will not default.

At a CNN townhall, former President Donald Trump told Republicans to be patient in order to convince Democrats to accept drastic spending cuts. He said, "If they don't offer you massive reductions, you will have to default." Trump predicted that Democrats would also 'cave in' to avoid a catastrophe.

Biden and McCarthy are not what anyone would call 'young degenerates' in the game of Chicken, but their positions on politics dictate that they continue to drive towards a collision, even at the last moment. McConnell’s assurance that everything will be fine in the end has been validated by history. But that doesn't mean that this time could't be any different.

Julian Zelizer said that McCarty was a weak Speaker with a small majority. He's 'unnecessarily pushing the country over the fiscal cliff' by refusing to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling.

David Winston, writing for Roll Call, argued that, after the worst inflation rate in 40 years, the public is more willing to limit federal spending. What the president and Hill Democrats fail to realize is that this year's debt ceiling debate is fundamentally a matter of fiscal discipline. This is exactly what McCarthy, and other Republican leaders, are trying inject into the debt ceiling discussions and budget process.

Trump Town Hall

Trump, who is the early frontrunner in the GOP presidential nomination race, answered questions during a CNN townhall in New Hampshire, but he did not concede anything, despite all of his legal and other troubles.

Trump 'failed to acknowledge the very real pain felt by so many Americans - including the millions who voted for him,' Paul Begala wrote. 'There was not a hint of empathy for the heroic cops who were brutally attacked on January 6. Not a mention of the struggling rural families wrestling with the demon of opioid abuse. Not a word of thanks for veterans and their families. Not a thought for the tens of millions of women whose rights have been rolled back by Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices - just triumphant boasting about how he was the GOP president who actually delivered on the overturning of Roe v. Wade,' noted Begala.

Jill Filipovic noted that if female voters were key to Donald Trump's victory in 2024, he would be in serious trouble. But he didn't care.

The town hall audience, which was selected based on their intent to vote in New Hampshire's Republican primary, appeared to be dominated by Trump supporters. The crowd cheered Trump's comments and denigration of the women in his crosshairs.

'The targeting E. Jean Carroll is particularly egregious. A jury has just fined Trump $5 million dollars for sexual abuse and defamation for calling Carroll's claims a hoax and a ploy. He denied Carroll's allegations again at the town hall and turned her into a laughingstock, mocking her and his fans while he threw her around.

Scott Jennings believes that a performance which'may turn away most American voters, particularly critical suburban indys in swing state... will thrill Republican primary voters. They love to watch him bulldoze through CNN and other mainstream media outlets. You have to realize that Trump's biggest supporters, and the majority of GOP primary voters understand his language. But the media and the Democrats do not.

Ashley Allison warns: 'This isn't a test.' Donald Trump is the Republican Party's frontrunner, and there were voters in New Hampshire who applauded him on Wednesday night.

Trump refused to say that he regretted January 6 when he spoke with them. He would not say whether he wanted Russia or Ukraine to win the war. Trump would not say that he wouldn't sign a ban on abortions nationwide. He would not say that he had lost the 2020 elections. Trump thought that the US should default its debt.

Biden's team was apparently thrilled by Trump's extreme remarks, thinking that the video clips will be useful for campaign ads in case there is a Trump-Biden matchup again. There was also a lesson to be learned by Republicans.

John Avlon wrote that 'the spectacle of the townhall' might just cause more Republicans to speak up about the unique threat Donald Trump poses. The CNN townhall forced a wider audience to face the fact that Donald Trump is, as Mitt Romney said, "completely untethered from the truth" -- and utterly ineligible for office.

David Gergen: Trump is a force-of-nature – and that’s a warning

Daniel R. DePetris : What Trump does right in Ukraine

Geoff Duncan: Donald Trump’s lead is a concern for Republicans

Clarence Thomas' nondisclosures

Steven Lubet, a law professor emeritus, is mystified by the recent revelations that Clarence Thomas failed to disclose financial relationships and gifts. Lubet wrote that Thomas, as a Supreme Court Justice, interprets complex laws that impact millions of Americans and takes pride in adhering to the text. It is hard to believe that Thomas could misinterpret simple instructions and plain statutory requirements on his annual disclosure report.

According to ProPublica, Harlan Crow, a GOP donor and real-estate magnate who is a GOP donor paid for the tuition of the grandnephew of the Justice. Mark Paoletta argued, as a friend of Thomas's, that the payments did not have to be disclosed because they were gifts made to the student and not to the Thomases. Lubet, however, countered by saying that Crow's generosity financially benefited Thomas, saving him from having to pay hefty tuition fees on his own.

Turkey Showdown

Sunday's Turkish election revolves partly around whether Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 69, can maintain his two decade-long rule in the economically challenged country. It's part of a bigger geopolitical narrative about the future of a strategically located power that is 'not exclusively in the East or West,' according to Elmira bayrasli, and which has'successfully mediated a deal between Russia' and Ukraine' for the export of grain out of Ukraine. Erdogan has always wanted to make Turkey a regional power and to get the warring parties to come to a peaceful agreement.

"A strident Turkey that is not aligned completely with the West, and as the gatekeeper of Russia and Ukraine's one and only shipping outlet across the Black Sea makes it a trustworthy broker for both parties."

Frida Ghitis pointed out that the stakes are high in this election. Ghitis wrote that Turkish voters would decide whether they wanted to re-elect Erdogan after 20 years under an increasingly autocratic regime, who's democratic credentials were as questionable as the NATO commitment of his. Erdogan's ambiguous views on NATO and Trump's questioning of NATO pose a serious danger to the survival of Western military power.

E. Jean Carroll wins

On Tuesday, a Manhattan jury awarded E. Jean Carroll a five-million dollar judgment in her civil defamation lawsuit and battery suit against Trump.

Caroline Polisi, a legal analyst, wrote that Carroll's win amplifies the trend of sexual assault allegations in court. After #MeToo, the courts are increasingly willing to accept evidence that shows a pattern or predatory behavior on the part of the defendant. This evidence was previously routinely excluded from civil and criminal proceedings ...'

Carroll's victory sends a message to serial predators that their past conduct can be brought up in court even if it has not been criminally charged or litigated.

Megyn's Kelly mistake

Eight people were murdered at a Texas mall last weekend in the sickeningly common ritual of mass shootings. Jill Filipovic said that America is the only place on earth where such a thing happens so often.

Megyn Kelly, former Fox News anchor, tweeted that the 'gun debate' was 'over... We need to face reality okay? In the last decade, mass shootings have occurred in states with stricter gun laws, such as New York, California and Connecticut, where I live. They are no better than states with lenient laws on guns like Texas.

As Filipovic wrote: 'This is not true. It's an example of why conservative talking point on guns are infuriating. They're often misleading manipulations ...'

In fact, states that have laxer gun laws experience more mass shootings. More restrictive gun laws have been linked to less gun violence in general: not only mass shootings but also homicides or suicides. The facts are the basis for any debate about this issue.

George Santos' indictment

Rep. George Santos was indicted on 13 counts Wednesday. Norman Eisen, Josh Stanton, and Fred Wertheimer wrote that Santos is even less competent as an alleged felon than he was as a member of Congress.

Prosecutors cited email and text messages which demonstrated how Santos misled people about the purpose of their contributions and how they would be used to benefit his campaign, before spending that money on personal expenses like designer clothes.

The indictment also details how he misrepresented his financial situation in documents filed to the House, and engaged in an elaborate scheme in order to receive unemployment benefits from the New York Department of Labor when in reality he worked for a firm of investment with a salary of six figures ...'

Santos' future is not looking good. Santos would do well to negotiate a plea bargain and resign as a member of Congress, despite his bravado about fighting it out.

Border surge

Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic strategy, expired on Thursday. The Biden administration was preparing for an influx of migrants at southern border. Anna Lekas Miller wrote that the crux of the problem is the question of who can move freely across borders.

As we enter a new era in immigration enforcement, we need to ask ourselves what's really behind the "crisis" at the border and how can we imagine a future beyond that? Are they the refugees who fled wars, economic crises, and increasingly the devastating impact of climate changes? Is the real crisis a world which doesn't allow them to move freely in the first instance?

Jordan Neely

Daniel Penny (24), a US Marine veteran who served in Iraq, surrendered last week to New York Police on charges of manslaughter for the chokehold death on a subway car of Jordan Neely (30). Issac Baily, a journalist at the New York Times, was inspired by this case to investigate how people deal with homelessness in large cities.

"When I arrived in New York late December, I accepted the dehumanization of other human beings. Human beings like Neely, and approximately 68,900 more. I perfected my art of making the homeless invisible. I was much more concerned with my own convenience - will the train take me to my destination at the right time? I was more concerned about my own convenience -- will the train get me to my destination on time?

I'm angry because Neely died in front of riders who didn't appear to do anything to stop his death. I'm not sure my actions in the last few months were better than theirs.

"All I did was give a homeless Black man some money and buy him a sandwich. I didn't murder Neely. I did not save him.

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The Happiness Trap

Monica C. Parker wrote, "We live in a happy world." Parker wrote that companies have chief happiness officers and countries have gross-national happiness measures. Consumers are encouraged to pursue happiness as the ultimate good. Parker noted that all of this is great, except that "in a world obsessed with happiness, people are chronically unhappy."

Perhaps the pursuit of happiness was a mistake. Why not pursue wonderment? We have all experienced wonder. Wonder is as universal as fear and happiness. We all know the goosebumps we get when viewing a beautiful vista or watching a child take their first step. This experience makes us feel like we are a part of something bigger, which in turn makes our problems appear smaller.

"Wonder makes you more creative, and it increases your desire to learn about the world." It makes us more humble, less materialism, and better members of the community.