A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

The National Review: It was Mitch McConnell’s finest hour as he stood up for the Constitution

By The Editors
The National Review

Mitch McConnell has had a long and distinguished career, but he may well be remembered for this week more than anything else.

He steered his caucus toward fulfilling its duty, explained himself in a thoughtful, cogent, and deeply felt speech, and then after the proceedings were disrupted by a pro-Trump mob, stirringly expressed his disgust and commitment to Congress completing its work. Bravo.

Mitch McConnell

The vote to accept the election results, McConnell said in his speech, was “the most important” he had cast in 36 years. It was his duty, he said, to use it to reaffirm the “limited role” that Congress plays in our elections, to reject “a step that has never been taken in American history,” and to “muster the patriotic courage that our forebearers showed not only in victory, but in defeat.” The Senate, McConnell reminded his colleagues, “has a higher calling than an endless spiral of partisan vengeance.”

Vice President Pence — under incredible pressure from the president to declare him the winner, including an abusive presidential tweet around the same time some of the rioters in the Capitol Building were chanting, “Where is Pence?” — joined McConnell in rejecting Trump’s invitation to abuse his office.

The Founders understood that, try as we may, we will not always have good men running our institutions, and that it would be dangerous to assume otherwise. As a result of this understanding, the United States has been set thick with laws designed to limit and distribute power, to balance and check ambition, and to set in aspic certain timescales and mechanisms that govern how — and for how long — political authority is to be wielded.

Contrary to the insistence of the technocrats, the disagreements that we see on routine display in Washington do not represent mere “bickering,” but our system of government filtering and assimilating the profound differences of opinion that exist in the country at large. Properly understood, “obstruction” — one of the technocrats’ favorite words — is a synonym for “dissent.” But, as McConnell aptly noted, there is a world of difference between the regular working of the machine and the attempt to circumvent that machine completely — as President Trump and his enablers have been trying to do. One action shows us why Washington exists; the other would precipitate its “death spiral.”

Amid our national obsession with the presidency and its occupants, it can be easy to forget that it is Congress, and not the executive branch, that is supposed to be prime within the federal government. Congress can pass legislation without the executive, and, if it sees fit, it can remove him at will. The executive, by contrast, has little power beyond that which has been delegated to him, and it can do nothing of consequence to congressional staff.

Having watched Congress abdicate its responsibilities for so long, it was welcome to see Senator McConnell taking his elevated role as seriously as he did — and even more important to see him admonishing others in his party for playing so casually with fire. Referring openly to the machinations of Senators Cruz, Hawley, and co., McConnell counseled against the depravity of pretending that a vote against the election results was “a harmless protest gesture while relying on others to do the right thing.”

In his notes from the Constitutional Convention, James Madison observed that the work of defending the new system would not be done by parchment, but by people. It is a sign of the enduring strength of the United States that those people not only exist but make up a solid majority. McConnell spoke for them.

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  1. ty Thacker says:

    Trump can no longer stay in office . Pence must continue to act for the will of the people .
    Stand up Pence and Congress.
    Get rid of the problem you have helped become more powerful and disrespecting of the American people and the system which governs it
    You dont have to be intelligent to Do The Right Thing

  2. Sharon Freedman says:

    I don’t understand how McConnell could go from the elegance and, what seemed like, heartfelt anger and deep emotion before and during the riot and insurrection to his more casual attitude about a possible impeachment of Trump. Is he more interested in being on the “good side” of the Republican party? Does he want to make sure that Trump gets all of the perks that a former president gets upon leaving office, than he is to see that the monster of the White House gets the punishment he deserves.

  3. Dan says:

    Cleaning up the messes you help create is part of being an adult. McConnell does not deserve accolades for finally saying something, anything to stand up to Trump and white supremacists.
    Frankly this article should be about his dereliction of duty and the need for him to resign.
    His show trial, on the way to acquittal, emboldened the biggest threat to our democracy in my lifetime.
    Shame on him for leaving the republic vulnerable in the pursuit of stacking the court.
    Shame on you for continuing to defend this spineless stain on our republic.

  4. Charles says:

    In comparison to the rest of the country Kentucky is a third world state, and this man being in power for so long is part of your problem.

    But I agree this was the highlight of what should have been the end of his career. Maybe next time.

  5. Bruce Maynard says:

    You have to be s****** me. I’m a lifelong Kentuckian, several generations. This man has allowed Ky to remain a poverty state for his entire lofty , powerful, career. He enabled trump an absolutely horrible human being in order to wield his power. Selfish, insulated, heartless is Mitch McConnell. I dare you to drive through eastern Kentucky and western wv. . if you aren’t saddened then you too, are heartless, insulated, and willfully ignorant. WHAT WE NEED IN THIS COUNTRY IS PUBLIC SERVANTS. NOT G******* POLITICIANS

  6. Dan Lovejoy says:

    He has done far too much damage to the constitution and to the county to get a pass with his one comment.

  7. Henry Gonçalves says:

    I said it from day one that Trump will be a national disease. If many adults had listened, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to infect more people than a novel coronavirus. And he isn’t novel, we have seen his idiosyncrasies played out many times before. Now that we know there is a vaccine for coronavirus, what are we going to do about the 74 million or so innocent Americans who had fallen victims to a NYC con man?
    Perhaps exile him back to Germany where his family happened in the first place?
    I doubt if he can find his way around there because German ladies won’t to be grabbed by an empty headed, dwarf fingered, mushroom-penised 74 year old anomalous with an orange toupee

  8. Theresa Tong says:

    Mr. McConnell, I was pleased and surprised to see you changed your stance on the total free pass the Republicans have been giving Trump no matter how egregious his abuses of his presidential powers in blatant disregard for the rule of law. It didn’t take long, however for you to switch back to covering for him and protecting him from his traitorous actions; planning a rally within walking distance to the Capitol so the crowd of his cult-like followers could easily reach the Capitol building immediately following his incendiary speech wherein he again, whined about the election being stolen from him, then he told the hysterical crowd to walk to the Capitol building where they were counting the electoral votes and instructed them to fight. Between Trump, Giuliani, and Trump’s idiot son, they definitely gave this crowd a call to arms in order to stop the counting of the electoral votes. The horror I felt when I saw the Capital building being desecrated by those domestic terrorists reminded me of the feelings I had when I watched those planes level the towers during 9/11. This man is a total menace and at his most dangerous right now because he is out of options. It’s been obvious from the beginning that trump was not fit for office yet you and your party supported him, no matter how aggregious and inhumane his actions became. I was so very impressed when you condemned this last action of his, but refused to cooperate in removing him from office immediately. This is not the end of it. He is not going to accept the fact that he lost the election and if more blood and destruction ensues because you decided to turn a dear ear again and insist on letting him stay in office until the 20th, every bit of death and destruction and mayhem he decides to cause will land squarely in your lap. I see your wife was so disgusted by Trump’s behavior that she resigned in protest, yet you block everyone who would protect us and remove this mad man from office. Frankly, Mr. McConnell, I am angry, frightened, and so incredibly disappointed in you. I sincerely hope the new administration takes a good, hard look at the last 4 years and holds EVERYONE accountable who enabled this dangerously unbalanced man who would be king. He did not manage the level and scope of destruction unaided. You really need to stop being so coy about your plans. “I will initiate proceedings on trumps impeachment an hour after he leaves office. You might find this amusing…YOU have a secured bunker to retreat into if he pushes the button but the rest of us will die. I hope you sleep well over the few remaining days of trumps time in office. Just know there are thousands of us out here praying he doesn’t destroy our Democracy and/our homes(literally) before he leaves office. To quote your golden boy….SAD…VERY, VERY SAD!!!!!!!!

  9. McConnell’s so called distinguished career is largely shifting the tax burden away from corporations and his wealthy backers down to the middle class and the working classes. He has been an obstructionist on any legislation to help the people of his own state who are largely poor and undereducated. He has opposed the ACA which makes it possible for large segments of Kentucky’s people to have health care for the first time in their lives and has never proposed an alternative health care proposal that is any better or addresses the problems of providing health care for our people. And for the last 4 years he has been a major enabler of Donald Trump’s criminal administration going so far as to conspire with him to avoid a well deserved impeachment after taking an oath to act as an impartial juror in Trump’s Senate trial all so he could stack the judiciary with right wing ideologues many of whom the ABA has condemned as unqualified. And I’m supposed to forget all of that because he finally stands up to Trump, but only after Trump can no longer help him further his personal agenda of accumulating more wealth and power for himself? He’s no better than Trump with whom he chose to associate himself and in so doing made of his life excrement!

  10. My above comments need no moderation. The truth can sometimes be harsh and bitter, but it should never be moderated.

  11. Ruth Bamberger says:

    I agree with Jeff Hampton and the others that McConnell has been a chief enabler of Trump’s disastrous four years in office. As Trump trashed the executive branch of the government, McConnell stymied the legislative work of Congress by not moving any bills through that he thought Trump might veto. And prior to Trump, he was the obstructor par excellence of anything Obama proposed. Both Trump’s and McConnell’s legacies will reflect a dark period in effective American governance.

  12. frederic s miller says:

    This is outrageous nonsense. McConnell blocked witnesses and evidence in the prosecution of impeachment because he knew it would reveal the president broke the law. He’s directly responsible for endangering his colleagues and his country. He should resign.

  13. mary smith says:

    yeah, i’m waiting to see when others make enough noise about how mitch didn’t allow a trial the first time, why would anyone believe the noise coming out of his mouth about how it’s not a good time to start the trial, now. it could easily be finished before the weekend was up, if they wanted to . . . they always make new rules when they are expedient to the desired end result . . . ditch mitch . . . he and the others who have been making wrong choices in the past weeks and months should be ejected from the senate and congress, by rules already available for such actions.

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