Don Blankenship, a former coal operator and for a while a resident of a federal penitentiary in connection with a fatal mine explosion, is reportedly struggling in his out-of-the-blue, anti-Establishment campaign to become a U.S. senator from West Virginia. So he’s really losing any inhibitions he might have originally harbored in going after his critics, notably the man whose party caucus he would join if he wins, Mitch McConnell.
McConnell is reportedly helping to orchestrate a pretty powerful ad offensive against Blankenship. And so the extremely plainspoken candidate is responding with an unusually baroque insult, calling McConnell “Cocaine Mitch” in an ad posted on Facebook:
As political reporters figured out, and as Blankenship’s campaign confirmed in a statement on the ad, this is an allusion to a 2014 report in The Nation (an unusual source of material for a right-wing GOP campaign) alleging that cocaine was found in a ship owned by McConnell’s father-in-law, the Taiwanese-American shipping agent James Chao. This represents a pretty remote attribution of druggie associations for McConnell — not to mention a deadly insult to Trump administration Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Mitch’s wife — but is apparently intended to reinforce Blankenship’s general claim that his Kentuckian enemy is in the thrall of China.
Whatever the shakiness of the underlying facts, Blankenship is probably pleased that “Cocaine Mitch” is trending on Twitter. And the brouhaha is definitely obscuring another little feature of the ad: Blankenship’s assertion that “politicians … blew up the mine and put me in prison.” This refers to his allegation that federal regulators were responsible for the 2010 Upper Big Branch explosion that killed 29 miners, and led to his conviction and incarceration for conspiracy to violate mine safety standards. That means, we are supposed to believe, that Barack Obama was out to get him. Blankenship even called himself a “political prisoner.” The man clearly thinks he’s one of the few people watching the West Virginia Senate race who is not part of some sort of conspiracy aimed at his own self.