August 31, 2023

Why Everyone Hates McConnell

As he ought to be contemplating retirement after a second freeze episode, we ponder why no one likes him.

Mitch McConnell first won election to the U.S. Senate in 1984 — the year of Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America” landslide reelection victory. That was nearly 39 years ago, and the now-81-year-old McConnell doesn’t seem well at all.

Yesterday, the senator totally froze during a press conference, and it was the second such episode in the last month.

Our first thought was that he and his staff need to be more transparent. The senator suffered a concussion earlier this year after a fall, but he and they keep insisting he’s just fine. Clearly he’s not. It’s telling that his staff seemed to have a plan in place should he stop speaking and stare off into space again.

Ironically, McConnell was asked about “running for reelection” when he completely froze. When the reporter repeated his question, McConnell said, “Oh,” chuckled, and continued, “That’s uh…” before just standing there silently staring.

Eight seconds later, his aide stepped in to ask him, “Did you hear the question, senator?” After another eight seconds of silence from McConnell, she said to reporters, “I’m sorry, you all, we’re going to need a minute,” and she tried to move him away from the podium he still stubbornly gripped. She and another aide spoke softly to him for another agonizing 22 seconds before she finally asked reporters if anyone else had another question. “Please speak up,” she added, as if she’d rehearsed that very thing.

That was gaslighting. The questions were asked plenty loud enough and everyone knows McConnell didn’t freeze because he didn’t hear.

We already wrote in July about the problem with geriatric politicians who just can’t seem to figure out when to hang up the boxing gloves, so we won’t repeat that here. If our first thought was about transparency, our second one was about McConnell gracefully bowing out in retirement — at least as Republican leader — before this happens yet again. If Dementia Joe’s gotta go, then so does Silent Mitch.

Which brings us to our third thought. Why does everyone hate Mitch McConnell?

In last week’s GOP presidential debate, Nikki Haley, who impressed a lot of people with her overall performance, asserted that Donald Trump is “the most disliked politician in all of America,” and therefore Republican voters should choose someone else who can win the general election.

She quickly got fact-checked because polls say the most disliked politician in America is actually Senator McConnell, and it’s not even close. Why is that?

Well, there are a lot of reasons. He’s been the GOP Senate leader for a record 16 years, and almost by definition that means he’s responsible for a great many “deals” and “compromises” on swamp legislation that conservative voters absolutely and rightly loathe. Of course, Democrats also hate his guts no matter how much he helps their objectives. Ergo, he’s widely disliked. (Democrats don’t turn on their own like Republicans do, by the way.)

Especially last year, McConnell seems to have gotten rolled on some key Democrat priorities like the “infrastructure” bill and the Inflation Reduction Act. The American Conservative Union gave him a 56 out of 100 last year — his lowest rating ever. Once upon a time, he had a lifetime ACU rating of 90.

Almost worse has been his support for Senate “Republicans” like Lisa Murkowski while throwing other GOP candidates under the bus. By doing so, he contributed to costing Republicans control of the Senate in last year’s election. At the time, that was enough for us to say “Mitch McConnell’s got to go.”

Perhaps most damning for McConnell in today’s Republican Party is his dislike for Trump. The former president has been indicted and will stand trial the day before Super Tuesday for his role in the January 6 riot. That’s as preposterous as the Democrats’ impeachment of the president for “inciting insurrection.” McConnell wasn’t one of the handful of Senate Republicans to vote for conviction, but he did assert that Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.”

MAGA Republicans will never forgive him for that, just as they’ll never forgive Mike Pence or anyone else who got on Trump’s bad side. Loyalty to a man, not to conservative principles, is now what determines whether a politician is a RINO (Republican in Name Only).

But there’s a glaring irony here: Without Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump would never have been president.

When the late great Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, Barack Obama was still president. Yet McConnell took the incredibly bold but clearly constitutional stance that the Senate would not even conduct hearings for Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

Instead, filling Scalia’s seat would be up to the next president and the next Senate. Better obstruction than destruction, we argued at the time.

It was a gutsy gamble, and it paid off. Many conservatives would not have voted for Trump had it not been for the Supreme Court.

The rest is history — Trump nominated and the McConnell-led Senate confirmed not one but three conservative Supreme Court justices, and hundreds of lower-court judges. The victories for Liberty are already well documented and many more are certain to come. Conservatives owe both men a debt of gratitude, even if Trump and McConnell can’t stand each other and most voters can’t stand either one of them.

Update 9/5/23: Capitol attending physician Brian Monahan examined McConnell and says he found “no evidence” the senator suffered a stroke or a seizure either time he froze.

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