Thom Tillis is all about the comparisons these days.
Last week, it was reminding people watching the imbroglio between Trump and Gold Star families that Obama was way more disrespectful toward the troops than the current leader of the free world, who is presently picking fights with a grieving widow.
But that’s old news. This week, the North Carolina senator wants you to know that Washington could use a little more North Carolina-style hardball politics—the tactics that eventually caused the Supreme Court to throw out the redistricting maps that Tillis himself oversaw, and, more recently, were called into question in a litany of defiant editorials after Republicans plowed forward in an attempt to remake the courts in their name.
As WRAL opined, “Legislative leaders want to put justice up for sale.”
So yeah, that’s the kind of stuff Tillis wants to see replicated in DC. Because we all know, if there’s one thing Republican leaders in Washington are lacking, it’s a sense of ruthlessness. (When Michelle Obama famously said, “when they go low, we go high,” she was actually talking about Mitch McConnell, didn’t you know?)
At this point, the Republican-dominated North Carolina General Assembly’s various attacks on legislative process and order (Tillis’s least favorite things) might seem commonplace. But, as my psychotherapist aunt always says, just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s not pathological. So let’s review some of the NCGOP’s greatest hits: ramming through HB 2, stripping power from Governor Cooper, and more recently, pitching a state constitutional amendment that would reduce the terms of judges to just two years—the shortest in the nation—a blatant attempt to politicize the courts after they’ve been more or less the only institution keeping state Republicans in check.
Tillis likes all this. And he wants to see it in Washington. As he told Politico in a wide-ranging interview, Republicans should stop worrying about rules, procedures, and norms:
“Among core Republicans in the statehouse and beyond, there’s not much regret over a renaissance that took them from Tillis being only the second Republican speaker in a century to holding super majorities and regularly flexing their power to override the governor’s vetoes. Politically, the situation is so bad for Democrats that they are now defining success in next year’s state legislative races not as winning, but as chipping away even a little at the GOP’s dominance.
Republicans could use a little of that North Carolina hardball in Washington, Tillis says. And as for complaints like those from his colleague Arizona Sen. John McCain, who cast his vote against Obamacare repeal as a protest against the way the bill was being rammed through without proper debate and review, Tillis blames the Democrats. “It’s a very noble purpose, but it doesn’t really exhibit any grasp of what’s been going around here in terms of tactics used by the minority,” he says of McCain’s stand.
Naturally, the interview at some point had to wade into Trump territory. Even though Tillis was quick to defend Trump amid the Gold Star controversies last week, he wouldn’t say whether he’s among the senators who, in Tennessee Senator Bob Corker’s words, believe the president is on a path to “World War III.”
And when asked if the president makes him proud to be a Republican, Tillis responded with characteristic, well, Tillis-ness: “I’m actually proud to be a Republican based on the ideals that being a conservative stand for. So I don’t need any one person.”