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Bill Straub: Recent efforts to undermine president are especially despicable, even for Mitch McConnell

It’s no secret that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is full of it. What’s stunning is the incredible amount of it the Louisville lawmaker continues to shovel out on a daily basis.

McConnell entered the Senate chamber on Monday to bemoan President Biden’s inability to capitalize on what he characterized as the golden opportunity presented to him on a platter by the previous GOP administration, led by your hero and mine, former President Donald J. Trump, during Biden’s short time in office.

To Mitch’s skewed way of thinking, Biden a Democrat entered office and “those incredible tailwinds have largely been squandered.” Inflation is rising, COVID-19 vaccinations have plateaued, murder rates have jumped and workers remain on the dole while jobs go unfilled.

“This turn toward pessimism is especially stunning and especially sad because President Biden took office with the wind at his back,” McConnell said solemnly. “Things were set up for a roaring success like no other presidential transition in recent memory.”

Really? The pandemic was still roaring and the economy was in the tank. But, as Boon famously said about John Blutarsky, “Forget it, he’s rolling.”

Biden benefitted from Operation Warp Speed, the process established by Trump to develop an effective COVID vaccine, McConnell asserted. What’s more, an economic rescue package addressing the disruption caused by the pandemic meant “we were primed and ready for a historic economic comeback. Americans were excited and ready to build a comeback summer for the history books.”

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

But ruefully, in the mind of the GOP leader, “That historic head start has been wasted through bad policy and, in many cases, needlessly divisive leadership.”

Needlessly divisive leadership. What a lovely phrase.

Now, let’s go back to May 5, just a little bit more than three months after Biden assumed office. Who do you suppose said this:

“One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration. I think the best way to look at what this new administration is: The president may have won the nomination, but Bernie Sanders won the argument.”

You don’t have to be Einstein to figure out the comments came from our boy Mitch, who essentially vowed to block any “historic head start’’ or “roaring success’’ the new president might aspire to.

Nowhere in his remarks, delivered in Georgetown, did McConnell express any willingness to work with the new administration to assure that Biden could indeed proceed with “the wind at his back,” even though, as anyone with the Trump administration can tell you, gale-force winds were actually blowing in his face. Nor did he offer any direction. Instead what he did was return to the playbook he utilized during the tenure of former President Barack Obama, blocking practically every beneficial initiative while maintaining at one point that “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

When you have a Senate split 50-50, with Democrats in the majority only as a result of Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the presiding officer to break ties, and with 60 votes necessary to defeat any filibuster, it’s awfully difficult to decipher how Biden, entering office during a pandemic that was obviously mishandled by his predecessor and then dealing with a malevolent minority, could possibly enter office where “Things were set up for a roaring success.”

Now let’s be honest here and acknowledge that Biden, a decent man, has not run the country like a house afire. He’s done little in regard to the pressing matter of global climate change – 115-degree heat in Portland, OR, has rather given the lie to global warming deniers – and he may have been a bit premature seeking a return to normalcy during the pandemic.

But overall he’s done okay, certainly an improvement over his immediate predecessor, which may be the grandest example of damning with faint praise ever before presented. Inflation, experts, including members of the Federal Reserve maintain, is a temporary nuisance as a result of the pandemic’s aftermath. The ongoing COVID-19 problems have little to do with Biden and everything to do with folks refusing to get vaccinated, often because Fox News and folks like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, cast doubt on the necessity. And while murders are inexplicably up, general crime is down.

In his Senate floor speech, McConnell ruefully noted that the nation has assumed a “turn toward pessimism,’’ which isn’t supported by the data. It’s quite accurate to note that, according to the RealClearPolitics average that currently only 40 percent of those questioned feel the U.S. is headed in the right direction while 52.6 percent feel the nation is on the wrong track.

But polls haven’t shown more than half those questioned maintaining the nation is headed in the right direction since 2000. The high-water mark for the Trump administration came in March 2020 when 40.2 percent, according to RealClearPolitics, responded favorably and 54.5 percent answered negatively.

And things got worse before they got better. On Jan. 22, two days after Biden assumed office, only 22.7 percent felt the nation was headed in the right direction while 67.2 percent said no way. So much for McConnell’s claim that things were looking up.

That status skyrocketed after Biden assumed office, reaching 43.3 percent positive on May 9, 50.7 percent negative. It has dipped slightly since then, probably owning to inflation, the pandemic’s return and partisan infighting where McConnell is the prime motivator.

It should also be noted that, since assuming office, Biden has never approached being less popular than Trump. Biden’s highest approval came on Jan. 30, shortly after assuming office, when he hit 55.8 percent. He currently sits at 51.5 percent, a natural decline from that early honeymoon period. Trump rather infamously never hit 50 percent approval, reaching a zenith of 44.5 percent in April 2020.

Just for giggles, McConnell’s present approval average rests at a whopping 24.5 percent.

Regardless, McConnell can whine about some phantom blown opportunity but the reality is he’s the one standing in the schoolhouse door fondling an axe handle. And nothing establishes his obstructionist credentials like his opposition to creating a special commission to examine the Jan. 6 insurrection.

No use going into the details of the dark day in American history. Suffice to say the House passed a resolution creating a bipartisan commission to get to the bottom of the woeful incident. McConnell, whose motivations remain unclear, worked laboriously to shoot the idea down, prevailing on some Republican colleagues to oppose the initiative as a personal favor to him.

McConnell, as has been noted ad-nauseum, has done some despicable things during his tenure as Republican leader. Nothing tops this. And it proves just how far he’s willing to go to disrupt the governmental process, even if, as he insisted, “Things were set up for a roaring success like no other presidential transition in recent memory.”

Unable to convince the Senate, the House has undertaken its own probe into the Jan. 6 incident. The testimony at the initial hearing, involving law enforcement personnel at the scene, was devastating and established why a probe is necessary despite McConnell’s intransigence.

“So many of the people I put my life at risk to defend are downplaying or outright denying what happened,” said Michael Fanone, an officer with the Metro Police Department in Washington DC, who was beaten and suffered a heart attack during the attempted insurrection. “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room. But too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist or that hell actually wasn’t that bad.” 

McConnell said he was too busy to listen to the testimony.

But Biden was set up for a roaring success.

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  1. Ellen Hackman Ziegler says:

    I agree with you, as usual. I don’t understand how McConnel can lie for so many years with a straight face. He and his party have done everything possible to throw a monkey wrench in whatever Biden attempts to accomplish. He is now meekly recommending vaccines, but I have the sense that by not getting vaccinated, and the Delta variant spreading , the hard core Republicans are willing to risk their lives and those of others to make Biden’s efforts seem to fail. How sad and disgusting. The world could burn up before Mitch and his cronies would cooperate or work for the good of the country

  2. Richard says:

    From msnbc:

    Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell will use his campaign funds to pay for radio ads in his home state of Kentucky encouraging people to get vaccinated against Covid-19, sources close to McConnell told NBC News on Wednesday.

    “Everybody needs to get vaccinated,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday evening, after the Centers for Disease control issued new mask guidance advising they be worn indoors in low-vaccination areas.

    More than 100 radio ads will air across Kentucky in the coming days, the source told NBC.

    How does the above undermine Biden?


    Biden has been the divider in chief since taking office. He has supported every liberal cause, including uncontrolled illegal entry into the US from our southern border. This has exacerbated the covid problem by letting people in that are carrying the virus. President Trump had addressed this problem by having migrants stay in Mexico until their cases could be heard, but Biden rescinded this common-sense measure.

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