Top Five Reasons Retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman Can Go F*ck Himself
Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio announced Monday that he's not running for reelection in 2022. He blamed supposed "partisan gridlock," which is entirely Mitch McConnell's fault. Senate Democrats seek “bipartisan consensus" like puppies begging for table scraps. Anyway, here's why Portman thinks the Senate sucks now:
We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are being pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means too few people who are actively looking to find common ground. This is not a new phenomenon, of course, but a problem that has gotten worse over the past few decades.
A few things: Senate Democrats' newest members are all to the right of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and that's fine! We're a big tent! Raphael Warnock isn't really a “radical liberal Marxist." That was a Republican lie. Josh Hawley, however, is a radical rightwing asshole, and he was elected the same year as conservative Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.
Warren and Ted Cruz were both elected in 2012. Warren is not dramatically more liberal than Ted Kennedy, whose seat she holds. Kennedy was the lion of the Senate, but Cruz is the weasel who feeds on dysfunction. Warren didn't pull silly stunts like shutting down the government or taking entirely the wrong message from Green Eggs and Ham.
Kasie Hunt at NBC News lamented the news of Portman's retirement, but she also failed to specifically call out Republicans as the source of congressional dysfunction.
“Serious and sincere”. https://t.co/gDFI7ndpZO— Soledad O'Brien (@Soledad O'Brien)1611665556.0
HUNT: [Portman] has been a serious legislator who has worked with people across the aisle on incredibly important issues, and he's leaving. And he says it's because it's a hard time to be a public servant. Our government is only as good as the people who are willing to come here and serve us in it. And if we create an atmosphere where good people no longer want to be here serving us, we're the ones who are going to suffer.
Portman first ran for Senate in 2010. He was in the same freshman class as Tea Party darlings Rand Paul from Kentucky and Marco Rubio from Florida. Portman was more than happy to accept support from the Tea Party, which turned on him when he supported marriage equality. Portman's son is gay, and a personal connection to an issue is the only reason Republicans ever demonstrate basic humanity. (He has a daughter as well, but that hasn't stopped him from trying to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict abortion rights.)
Although the senator was reportedly “fed up" with the Tea Party by 2015, he still played according to their rules. He co-signed Tom Cotton's treason letter to Iran undercutting Barack Obama's nuclear deal. He supported the Senate GOP's unprecedented refusal to hold confirmation hearings for Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Hey, he had reasons!
Portman said he told Garland why he wouldn't be supporting his Supreme Court bid.
"I was able to talk about my reasoning … that during a very partisan year and a presidential election year, that both for the sake of the court and the integrity of the court and the legitimacy of the candidate, it's better to have this occur after we're passed this presidential election," he said.
Those are very “serious and sincere" reasons Portman would later misplace during Amy Coney Barrett's drive-by Senate confirmation. He had a whole new set of reasons for proceeding last year.
During an election year, when one party holds the presidency and the Senate, in the entire history of our country, the Senate has confirmed the nominee in every single case except one. That one exception, by the way, was somebody who withdrew because of ethics concerns that both Republicans and Democrats had. So the precedent is very clear -- when you've got the president and the Senate of the same party, we confirm. In contrast, when power has been divided and a Supreme Court vacancy arises during an election year, the Senate precedent is not to confirm the nominee. In fact, the last time a confirmation occurred with the president and Senate of different parties was in the 1880's. That distinction is what separates now from 2016.
Portman had no problem reneging on whatever bogus principles Republicans hid behind when blocking Garland. He fully embraced the McConnell Doctrine of amassing power at all costs.
Last year, during the 45th president's first annual impeachment, Portman wrote a fancy op-ed for the New York Times stating that the previous occupant's attempted extortion of a foreign nation for his own political interests were "improper and shouldn't have happened," but they didn't rise to level of removing him from office. In 1998, Portman called on Bill Clinton to resign for his fellatio-related high crimes and misdemeanors. As a member of the House, he also voted to impeach Clinton.
Portman wasted his vote on Mike Pence in 2016 because the Access Hollywood tape offended him so much, but four years later he was fully on the Trump train. The economy was in overdrive (yes, the following quote is from February 2020, when Trump was ignoring the coronavirus):
I'm going to vote for him, and I'm helping him, and I'm endorsing him. I cannot believe the change we have seen in terms of our economic growth, in terms of restoring our military strength. He's done a lot of great things.
Wave at the 400,000 dead Americans on your way out, Senator.
We get it: Portman had his polite Republican act down, which is probably why Kasie Hunt mourns his departure, but when it mattered, he was no better than a Senator (shudder) Jim Jordan.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."