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Bill Straub: Go figure Mitch McConnell’s turnabout, forevermore putting party over country

Calling on any public figure to resign, retire, hit the road or however you might want to put it is an onanistic gesture sure to be ignored by the individual it’s aimed while serving as a target of ridicule for his or her supporters.

So be it.

But, folks, it’s time for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Louisville, to take a powder for the sake of the nation he’s supposed to be serving and collect on the hefty benefits package awaiting him in his dotage. He has entered the laughing stock phase of his persona, the punch line to an untold number of jokes. The time has come for Mitch to take his “dour” expression, as one well-known critic characterized it, down to Boca Raton and call it a day.

McConnell has supplied two examples of just how worthless he is in the past week alone, and neither have anything to do with his opposition to the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 recovery bill that is slated for floor consideration this week. That’s just a politics-as-usual set piece for Mitch – a jeroboam of Cristal for the wealthy and crumbs for the needy. Such unconcern has been his political raison d’etre for 36 years now and there’s no use bringing up ancient history.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

The first case against the floor leader, perhaps the lesser of the two, is his stated opposition to a special commission to investigate the Jan. 6 seditious assault on the Capitol, an attack that left five dead, including a law enforcement officer, and has resulted in more than 270 arrests.

According to FBI Director Christopher Wray, this textbook case of domestic terrorism was undertaken by supporters of former President Donald J. Trump who maintain that only nefarious measures stopped him from taking the oath of office for a second time. Those marauders consisted of, to a large measure, white nationalists and far-right instigators.

Now, given that any number of public officials – then-Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – were placed in grave danger and the very fabric of the republic was battered by the insurrectionist mob, one might think that the Senate leader of one of the two major political parties might want to get to the bottom of it.

Not Mitch.

Pelosi has proposed a commission composed of seven Democrats and four Republicans – an opening gambit that certainly requires adjustment – to investigate the matter. McConnell, appropriately, dismissed that proposal as “partisan by design.”

But rather than come back with a plan to equalize the number of members and provide both sides with subpoena powers and the ability to call witnesses, McConnell said the entirety of domestic terrorism would have to be probed, not just the Capitol attack, to attract his approval.

Or, he said, a panel could just consider Capitol security, ignoring the underpinnings of the assault itself.

“We could do something narrow that looks at the Capitol, or we could potentially do something broader to analyze the full scope of the political violence problem in this country,” McConnell said. “We cannot land at some artificial, politicized halfway point.”

To characterize an effort to topple the U.S. government through violence by attacking the very seat of that government is not “some artificial, politicized halfway point.” It is McConnell’s usual and uncanny way of diverting attention from a horrendous situation that may place Trump’s Republican administration, and his die-hard followers, in a condemning light. Hauling in other examples of unrest, like those commenced by Black Lives Matter and other groups this past summer, is only proposed to dilute the brutal and treasonous activities of the violent right-wing, which would, in turn, deservedly cast shade on the Republican Party.

The federal government, including Congress, must determine responsibility for the Capitol attack, the precepts of those involved and the extent of Trump’s influence on the entire, sordid mess. But McConnell is much more interested in demonstrating that Black activists are just as responsible for the political turbulence engulfing the nation as the malignant far right.

In sum, when in doubt, blame the Black guy.

This sorry state of affairs establishes just how far McConnell is willing to place party over country, which, along with coveting power, remains one of his two primary motivating factors.

For standing in the way of an honest examination of the manipulations behind the Capitol attack, McConnell should be waving bye-bye.

Oh, but there’s more.

You may remember Trump faced impeachment for inciting his supporters to march to the Capitol to make their hurt feelings known, an urging that transformed into a riot. A majority of senators, including a handful of Republicans, wound up supporting the resolution but they failed to attract the requisite two-thirds vote, so Trump got off.

McConnell voted to acquit but only because the impeachment vote came after Trump had already left office, thus, he said, rendering any action unconstitutional (we could note that a prosecution could have been proceeded while his Orange Eminence still resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but McConnell, then the majority leader, refused to call lawmakers back to Washington to consider the proposition).

Regardless, McConnell indicated that Trump’s departure for Mar-a-Lago was the only thing keeping him from voting for impeachment, which, had the initiative proved successful, would have prohibited Trump from seeking the nation’s highest office yet again.

Remember, standing on the Senate floor, in front of God and everybody, McConnell asserted Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day’’ and that “the people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.”

“Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police,” McConnell said. “They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the vice president. They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth – because he was angry he’d lost an election. Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.”

Fine. For once in his political life Addison Mitchell McConnell had the advantage of telling the truth.

As is his wont, Trump returned fire, maintaining that McConnell, “is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again.”

“He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our Country,” Trump said in a statement.

All this seemed to set the stage for a showdown between establishment Republicans, represented by McConnell, and Trumpists, led by, well who else?

But it was not to be. Appearing on Fox News last Sunday, McConnell was asked, point blank, if he would support Trump if he is the Republican presidential nominee in 2024.

McConnell offered a one-word response: “Absolutely.”

This, friends, is the very definition of madness.

Just a few weeks ago McConnell accused Trump of dereliction of duty and inciting a riot. Both are certainly impeachable offenses. McConnell was willing to toss him from office, a move that would have prohibited Trump from ever serving again. For this Trump called McConnell a political hack.

And now Mitch acknowledges he will endorse that same dude if he captures the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, thus re-opening the door to the man he earlier denounced for provoking a seditious assault on the body politic.

In other words, let’s let bygones be bygones.

How do you rationalize that? “Well, sure, he instigated an insurrection to topple the duly elected government of the United States resulting in a riot that led to five deaths and called me a hack but, boy, he’s earned my respect!”

Or maybe, “Yeah, I said all those words that he was responsible for prompting the marauders but it was all for show – I didn’t really mean it.”

Has Noah Webster changed the definition of “Absolutely” to “Hell no?”

In addition, McConnell is essentially raising the white flag, giving up on ending Trump’s tenure as the party’s king of the hill. Instead of confronting the situation and challenging the Trump faction that shanghaied the party, McConnell has chosen to roll over like a slopped pig in the most cowardly fashion, retiring from the fight before it even began.

But he undoubtedly will remain in the upper chamber for another five years, continue to serve as Republican leader and possibly repeat his role as Trump’s boy if the opportunity presents itself.

Lucky us.

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