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The Collusion Won't Be Televised: McConnell Stays Quiet on Koch Brothers, Birchers

Photo by Mark Taylor, via Flickr“Do you repudiate Richard Fink’s remarks at the Koch retreat this summer?” a reporter asked Mitch McConnell the other day.

His chattiness was caught on tape at the now famous Father’s Day fund-raising conclave hosted by Charles and David Koch. But when the scribe aimed a mike at McConnell, mum was the word from the senate majority leader-wannabe.

McConnell had heaped high praise on the Koch siblings. He promised the billionaire Republican donors present that hogs would fly before a GOP senate under his reign would hike the minimum wage. Fink, a Koch political guru, compared any such pay boost to fascism.

“This is not just in Germany,” Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos quoted Fink. “It's in Russia, in Lenin, and Stalin Russia, and then Mao. This is the recruitment ground for fascism."

Fink’s bizzare blather reminded me of a Kentucky senator who, in a 1962 speech at Yale, said that members of the far right-wing John Birch Society, the Tea Party of his day, “don’t know anything about history” and they “apparently have never read anything at all.”

The solon would become Addison Mitchell McConnell’s boss. He was Sen. John Sherman Cooper, a Bluegrass State mountain Republican who didn’t duck the liberal label.

McConnell was one of Cooper’s interns.

Fink’s boss, Charles Koch was a Bircher, like his daddy, according to The Progressive magazine’s Lisa Graves. Fred Birch’s kid lent his name and his dough to Birch Society doings in Wichita, Kansas, and helped “its ‘American Opinion’ bookstore — which was stocked with attacks on the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, and Earl Warren as elements of the communist conspiracy. He funded the John Birch Society's promotional campaigns, bought advertising in its magazine, and supported its distribution of right-wing radio shows.”

Added Graves:

“The echoes of his past role reverberate along with the millions he and his brother David Koch have spent fueling a John Birch Society-like ‘Tea Party’ peopled with right-wingers like Birchers of decades past who contend against all reasoning that the president is a communist. David Koch himself has claimed President Obama is a scary ‘socialist.’ These roots run deep in the Kochs.”

The Birchers also claimed Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a “tool of the Communists” and that fluoridated drinking water was part of the commie plot to take over the country.

Bircher baloney was too much even for William F. Buckley, Jr. editor of the National Review. The Yale grad entreated the GOP to distance itself from the wackos.

In his Yale address, Cooper opined that the Birch Society appealed to some ultra-conservatives because it offered them, “some kind of escape, however irrational,” the Associated Press reported.

The Birchers are still around. But they’ve been eclipsed by the Tea Party and like-mined white folks of the Obama’s-a-Kenyan-born-Islamo-Socialist-who-is-sneaking-100-million Muslims-into-America-to-help-him-take-over-the-country persuasion.

Cooper wanted no part of the Birchers and their conspiratorial claptrap. When I was a kid, neither did most country club Republicans in my western Kentucky hometown. They made fun of the Birchers.

Anyway, when an Eli quizzed Cooper about a “silent partnership” between the Birch Society and the GOP, the senator said he knew of only one Republican member of Congress who was a Bircher, according to the AP.

The current Congress has a boisterous Tea Party Caucus.

Cooper said the kind of conservatism represented by Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Arizona, “does not meet the needs and issues of the day.” A headline writer at The Daily Beast, called Goldwater “the true father of the Tea Party.”

Cooper said he and Goldwater disagreed over a number of issues, the AP also reported. “Cooper said Goldwater, for example, had announced himself as being for the U.S. constitution ‘as written,’ and not as interpreted by the Supreme Court in recent years.” The Kentuckian apparently was referring to Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 high court ruling that outlawed segregated schools. (The Birchers detested Chief Justice Warren, a Republican, and started an “Impeach Earl Warren” petition drive.)

Cooper conceded that Goldwater’s ultra-conservatism might play well with Southern whites. But he declared, “this has not and should not be the position of the Republican Party.” Cooper said federal civil rights programs “are an aspect of freedom” and without them the constitutional guarantees of equality become almost meaningless for blacks, according to the AP.

Two years after Cooper’s speech, Goldwater ran for president in opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and in favor of “states’ rights,” the old Southern code word for slavery and for Jim Crow laws that kept blacks separate and unequal from whites and prevented African Americans from voting.

Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson drubbed Goldwater. Nonetheless, Goldwater carried Arizona and cracked the white supremacist Democratic Solid South by pocketing a quintet of ex-Confederate states.

In the 1960s, a number of moderate and liberal northern and western Republicans joined LBJ, a Texan, and Democrats mostly from the north, west and border states in championing the Civil Rights Act and other landmark civil rights legislation aimed at ending Jim Crow race discrimination.

Afterwards, the old party of Lincoln and Liberty veered sharply rightward and adopted the “Southern Strategy,” a calculated effort to woo white Southern Democrats who hated to see Jim Crow go.

The Democratic Solid South crumbled to dust. The white South turned Republican Red.

Anyway, Fink’s fulmination was, of course, preposterous at face value. Raising the U.S. minimum wage has nothing to with fascism and communism, which are opposing foreign ideologies.

Benito Mussolini became the Fascist dictator of Italy in the 1920s. Mussolini’s pal Adolf Hitler became the Nazi dictator of Germany in the 1930s. They hated communists.

Lenin, Stalin and Mao were communists who hated fascism, though one could make a good case that Russia’s current strongman ruler, Vladimir Putin, exhibits fascist, if not czarist, tendencies.

McConnell knows Frank’s comments were idiotic. But he zipped his lips because he is keenly aware that the same asinine sentiments thump in Tea Party hearts and are scrawled on their loopy signs. He desperately wants the Tea Party to play on Team Mitch.

On the other hand, Cooper stood up to the Birchers, the practitioners of what historian Richard Hofstadter in 1964 called “the paranoid style in American politics.” The Goldwater movement was his Exhibit A. The Tea Party would make a great Exhibit B. Wrote Hofstadter:

“I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind….The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms….The paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician.”

He added: 

“Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated—if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention….The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid challenged McConnell to repudiate what Fink said. “But when The Undercurrent's Lauren Windsor asked McConnell about it directly, he had no response beyond a slight head shake,” Clawson wrote.

She concluded, “So I guess we can put Mitch McConnell down as tacitly onboard with the view that raising the minimum wage is like Hitler. Which is a pretty radical view considering that in poll after poll, strong majorities of Americans support a higher minimum wage.”

Polls show even most people in Red State Kentucky want the minimum wage raised. Even so, the “radical view” of Richard Fink seems a mainstream view in the Tea Party-tilting GOP of John Sherman Cooper’s former intern.

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