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Will the Real Ken Cuccinelli Please Stand Up?

As Portland became the laboratory for Trump’s take on Vladimir Putin’s “little green men” tactic (Dan Drezner, WaPo [1]), a face all too familiar to Virginians has appeared to defend the latest abuse of power coming from the White House – none other than our former Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli (now Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security).

You might remember the former AG as the fellow who prided himself on fighting federal overreach wherever he could find it. He even wrote a book about it. Now, the reviewer at the WaPo (Steven Ginsburg [2]) wasn’t particularly kind; it is the Washington Post after all. Still, from Ken’s own words, one has to wonder what his 2013 version of himself would say about the fellow using his name seven years later.

From 2013 Ken:

One of their favorite ways to increase their power is by creating programs that dispense subsidized government benefits, such as Medicare, Social Security, and outright welfare (Medicaid, food stamps, subsidized housing and the like). These programs make people dependent on government. And once people are dependent, they feel they can’t afford to have the programs taken away, no matter how inefficient, poorly run, or costly to the rest of society.

Strangely enough, that kind of concern about Washington creating dependence among the American people disappeared when Trump chose to provide “outright welfare” to Midwestern farmers damaged by his own trade war (Politico [3]).

Direct farm aid has climbed each year of Trump’s presidency, from $11.5 billion in 2017 to more than $32 billion this year — an all-time high, with potentially far more funding still to come in 2020…But lawmakers have taken a largely hands-off approach, letting the department decide who gets the money and how much.

The trade bailout has now spanned three years and surpassed $23 billion, even though it was never appropriated by Congress. Instead, the money was funneled through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, a Depression-era agency that can borrow from the U.S. Treasury to stabilize the farm economy.

Yet somehow the guy to went to court over Obamacare has gone mute over billions of dollars making “people dependent on government” without any Congressional approval.

As for the trade war itself, and the tariffs that spawned them … well, let’s just say Ken’s record on taxes since 2007 has been … interesting [4]. This was the guy who first got elected to the State Senate on opposition to a regional tax increase in 2002. Five years later, he endorsed and then unendorsed a similar tax increase. Finally, in 2013, he took nearly every position he could on the McDonnell tax hike. The closest thing to certainty we can expect is for Ken to declare opposition to the tariffs after he or Trump are out of Washington.

Still, one could argue that Ken didn’t take a job in the Commerce Department, but in Homeland Security.

The trouble is that things aren’t any better over there; in fact, one could argue they’re much worse.

This is what 2013 Ken said about his book (AP via WJLA [5])…

What we’re challenging is government’s apparent ready willingness to take a program- pick a program – and overstep its boundaries to expand its own power.

… which brings us back to Portland.

The presence of DHS personnel in military get-up roaming the streets of Portland in unmarked vehicles has led a former colleague of Ken’s (Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon – who is still the state’s AG) to sue the federal government to stop it from “overstepping their powers and injuring or threatening peaceful protesters on the streets of Downtown Portland.”

I’m sure 2013 Ken would have been right there with her. But 2020 Ken? Not so much.

On the use of unmarked vehicles, he dodges. “Literally, every police department in America has them” (USA Today via Yahoo [6]) – never mind the difference between local police and a federal cabinet department created to prevent terrorist attacks. Regarding the lack of identification when detaining citizens and attacks on protestors, he acts like these problems don’t exist (ABC News via Yahoo [7]).

“What if Obama….” is an overused form of argument, but in this case, it would be quite apt. As Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli prided himself on his fights against federal overreach. We could really use 2013 Ken today.

Instead, we have 2020 Ken.