By now I'm sure you've heard about the latest David Corn scoop for Mother Jones in which he acquired a clandestinely recorded audio file of a Mitch McConnell re-election strategy meeting regarding Ashley Judd's potential candidacy for Senate (she's since declined to run). In the 12-minute recording from early February, McConnell aides discuss, among other things, the exploitation of Judd's battle with depression. The leader of the meeting gave us the most damning quote:
"She's clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it's been documented. Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she's suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the '90s."
So this would've been fair game for a man who's the Minority Leader of the most prestigious lawmaking body, possibly in the entire world. He was plotting to attack and smear Judd because she suffered from a disease. Not only that, but they planned to use her mental health ordeal as a jumping-off point for caricaturing her as, in Corn's words, "a weirdo." How honorable. How respectable. How disgusting.
I'll come back to the mental health attack presently.
Since the story broke, McConnell and the broader conservative entertainment complex rocketed into action with predictable tinfoil hat conspiracy-mongering and more than a little bit of projection, accusing Mother Jones and liberal operatives of bugging McConnell's headquarters, with words like "Watergate" and "Nixon" attached to the accusations.
McConnell said in a news conference yesterday, "They were bugging our headquarters, quite a Nixonian move. This is what you get from the political left in America these days." Not allegedly. They did it. They bugged the place. No gray area in McConnell's statement. It happened, he said.
And because the Republican senator is so concerned about the thrifty use of taxpayer money, the FBI will be investigating the allegations.
Yes, according to conservatives, everything is a conspiracy in Obama's America: falsified birth certificates, Benghazi weapons trafficking to al-Qaida, ACORN election rigging (even though ACORN doesn't exist), firearm confiscation, terrorist sleeper cells in the White House, fascist communism (??), black liberation theology, Sharia law replacing the Constitution, and now Nixonian buggings. You name it, the Republicans have turned it into an unhinged conspiracy theory. More than once, the Republican Party itself, along with its most prominent leaders, not just the loosely affiliated wackadoodles, have marketed in cloak-and-dagger tall-tales worthy of Alex Jones' bathroom masturbation hamper. Prior to Jones' "Obama is the leader of al-Qaida" theory and McConnell's "Watergate" theory, Saint Rand Paul, future GOP presidential candidate and libertarian Christ-child, perpetuated the hilariously absurd theory that the Obama administration via the late ambassador Chris Stevens was helping to run weapons from former anti-Qaddafi Libyan rebels with al-Qaida connections to anti-Assaad Syrian rebels with al-Qaida connections.
It's not shocking considering how far off the rails the Republican Party has careened.
They're willing to do or say anything, no matter how contradictory or ridiculous in order to portray themselves as victims and to stir the shitstorm. The Mother Jones story had barely made its rounds before McConnell began using the Watergate-style conspiracy theory to raise money for his campaign. The following image was used in a McConnell email blast to supporters:
Um, doesn't a "wiretap" have to do with a phone line? The recording was made in a room, not on a phone. Oh, but I get it. Who cares about facts? Wiretapping sounds more sinister.
Of course if McConnell was serious about finding the culprit, he'd simply round up everyone who was in the meeting and check their smartphones for recordings and email attachments. But he's not serious. In fact, the true Nixonian in this twisted story is McConnell himself and his bottom-feeding campaign goons.
If the "emotionally unstable" smear sounds familiar, it should. It's torn directly from the Nixon playbook. Not only did Nixon's creepy team of "Plumbers" attain Daniel Ellsberg's mental health records in order to publicly discredit the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, but the Nixon White House also had in its possession the mental health records belonging to the 1972 Democratic vice presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Thomas Eagleton, which eventually led to the candidate withdrawing from the campaign after it was learned that he had received electroshock therapy. The Eagleton affair further weakened the McGovern campaign and augmented Nixon's landslide re-election. With Ashley Judd, the McConnell campaign was clearly planning to use her history of depression as an Ellsberg/Eagleton cudgel for questioning her judgment and psychological stability. And the Democrats are Nixonian? By the way, knowing what we know about the 113th Congress, specifically some of the Republican members of the House, it's difficult to believe that Judd would've been the only sitting legislator who's "emotionally unbalanced."
Incidentally, has anyone asked McConnell, who's not embarrassed to stand before the press corps and spread paranoid conspiracy theories, whether he's suffering from some form of schizophrenia? I mean, as I've written here, it could very easily have been a disgruntled aide with a smartphone, but McConnell immediately skipped over the most plausible explanation to Nixonian Watergate Recording Conspiracy! IEEEE! I don't recall Romney lashing out with accusations of Nixonian conspiracies after the 47 Percent recordings were published. Does McConnell need some help? Why the paranoia? Just asking.
Knowing what McConnell was planning, perhaps Judd was wise to stay out of the propeller blades, but I would've enjoyed watching that campaign. Among other reasons, she would've further vindicated the accusations that the Republican Party is an unserious posse of smearmongers, paranoiacs and ignorant misogynistic bullies. Then again, it appears as if McConnell and the others are successfully damning themselves on those counts.