Dem 51
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Even Turtles Get Old

Senate Minority Leader Addison Mitchell "Turtle" McConnell is 81 and it is showing badly. This is clearly his last rodeo (or whatever turtles do for recreation). Politico Magazine has a long pre-obituary on him already.

As you probably know, McConnell, who had polio as a child, fell and had a concussion in March. Then in July, during a normal press conference, McConnell totally froze for 20 seconds in midsentence. Something was very obviously very wrong. He was led away from the podium by Minority Whip Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who would like to become the new party leader. Thune gently leading McConnell away from the podium he would like to stand at was more than a little bit symbolic. McConnell hasn't explained what happened or shared the results of any medical tests. His wife, former cabinet officer Elaine Chao, has been extra attentive with him of late.

We're not in Soviet Union territory yet, where the death of the leader was covered up with "he has a bad cold" until the day before the funeral. Nevertheless, McConnell was offline for a month after his fall and he has been much quieter than usual at the weekly caucus lunches. He has also been barely involved in legislative matters that he used to run with an iron fist encased in a velvet glove. McConnell uses hearing aids, but even with them, seems to often miss things people say to him.

Needless to say, after McConnell's freeze-up, reporters were swarming neurologists for a diagnosis. Dr. Lee Schwamm, a neurologist and stroke expert at Yale, and Dr. Jeffrey Saver, a neurologist at UCLA, said that the most likely reasons for the freeze-up were a TIA (a mini stroke) or a partial seizure. Schwamm said McConnell should have immediately gone to the ER, but he didn't.

McConnell's term ends in Jan. 2027, so he has to decide if he wants to run again in 2026. At his age and with his health in question, it seems more likely than not that he will finish out his term but not run again. He is only too painfully aware of the health status of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). He would prefer to go out of his volition and as close to the top of his game as possible.

McConnell is not going to go into a kind of semi-retirement in the Senate this year or next. He despises Donald Trump and wants to do everything he can to rid the Republican Party of him and Trumpism. This will require the Minority Leader to take an active role, especially since his opinion of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is only marginally higher than his opinion of Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). McConnell realizes that he is de facto the real leader of the Republican Party in Congress and he can't afford to blow it. (V)

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