Speaking of Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader has thus far offered little explanation for the "freeze" he experienced at last week's press conference. When we wrote it up, we suggested that for political reasons, he was going to need to provide some information, so as to assure people he's not incapacitated. He apparently disagrees, and guess what? He's now the subject of plotting, planning and scheming from all sides. Told ya, Mitch.
To start, the Minority Leader has had an iron grip on the leadership of his conference for the better part of two decades. On one hand, challenging him directly is both disrespectful and gauche, and can make a person very unpopular with their colleagues, as Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) learned earlier this year (when he tried, and failed, to unseat McConnell as minority leader). On the other hand, if McConnell vacates his post unexpectedly (due to death, incapacity or resignation), an ambitious Republican doesn't want to be caught with his pants down (we would include "pantsuits down" in that, but the fact is that the Senate GOP is still run by men, such that there's no serious woman contender to succeed McConnell). At the moment, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and John Barrasso (R-WY) are gently maneuvering behind the scenes, just in case. Cornyn would be the grown-up choice, Barrasso would be the clown car choice.
Meanwhile, the various Republicans who think they are running for president don't care about succeeding McConnell, per se, because they cannot do so (unlike the Speaker of the House, party leaders in both chambers have to be elected members, which excludes all the presidential "candidates" except for Sen. Tim Scott, R-SC). That said, most of the Republican presidential "candidates" are running in the Trump lane, and that means they are required to hate "RINO" McConnell. So, they've been nibbling away at him this week. To take one example, Nikki Haley was on Face the Nation, and performed her usual "trying to have it both ways" routine:
I think Mitch McConnell did an amazing job when it comes to our judiciary. When we look at the judges, when we look at the Supreme Court, he's been a great leader. But I do think that this is one—you know, we've got to stop electing people because they look good in the picture or they hold a baby well. We've got to stop electing people because we like them and they've been there a long time. That's actually the problem. You need to have term limits, because we need new ideas, new solutions. We've got to have a new generation...
What I am saying about Mitch McConnell, Dianne Feinstein, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, all of them: know when to walk away. We have huge issues that need new solutions. We need new generational leaders. We appreciate your service. We appreciate what you've done. But this is why we will fight for term limits. We've got to get it done in America.
We trust it is clear that complimenting the Kentuckian on his Supreme Court maneuvering is somewhat faint praise when it's followed by suggesting that he's being reelected for no good reason, and then comparing him to a murderer's row of most-hated Democrats. The only thing that's missing is a comment on how very much McConnell has in common with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and/or Hillary Clinton.
And finally, Democrats aren't above a little maneuvering of their own, and so it's at least plausible this story is true. According to reporting that first appeared in The Washington Times, and then was reiterated by RawStory, Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY) has apparently decided that if McConnell leaves his seat early, then he (Beshear) will ignore the bill recently passed by the Kentucky legislature that says that he (Beshear) has to pick a Republican to replace a Republican, and instead will tap a Democrat and then fight it out in court.
We note this report because, again, it's plausible, and if it did come to pass, it would be major news. That said, it is presumably clear that we are also skeptical. The Washington Times and RawStory are on opposite ends of the political spectrum (semi-far-right and semi-far-left, respectively), but are very similar in having somewhat shoddy journalistic standards. They're not always wrong, but they're wrong a lot more than a legitimate news source should be. On top of that, we really can't imagine why Beshear would consider such shenanigans, since he's up for reelection this year. It would almost certainly cost him his job, and for what? Somewhere between 6 and 18 months of +1 Democratic senator, before an election could be held (or before a GOP lawsuit was successful)? And even if Beshear was willing to fall on his sword like this (maybe because he believes that +1 will be the vote that ends the filibuster?), why would he publicly announce that before it was necessary?
In any event, our advice to McConnell remains the same: If you want to stay in power, you really need to come up with a compelling explanation for why this incident was no big deal. We were already on the record as suggesting that he probably won't ever get the gavel back. And it's going to be nigh-on impossible if he's got a reputation as someone whose mind could go at any time (or whose mind has already gone). (Z)