All things considered, last week was pretty good for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. He managed to wreak satisfying revenge on Joe Manchin by knocking the West Virginian’s pet energy-permitting proposal out of a must-pass stopgap spending bill, which was part of the deal Manchin struck with Chuck Schumer to clear the Inflation Reduction Act. Of even greater importance, McConnell’s Senate candidates — including the bozos Donald Trump foisted on the GOP — were doing better in the polls, reviving hopes that Republicans might flip control of the chamber after all.
The outburst got attention because of the violent “death wish” rhetoric and the now-routine racist abuse of Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife and Trump’s former secretary of Transportation (who infuriated the ex-president by resigning after his insurrectionary misconduct on January 6, 2021). Indeed, a Trump spokesperson felt compelled to respond to the charge that the 45th president was calling for a hit on McConnell, as the Washington Post reported:
A Trump spokesman said it was “absurd” to interpret the post as a threat or call for violence, suggesting the reference to a death wish was “political” rather than literal.
“Mitch McConnell is killing the Republican Party through weakness and cowardice,” spokesman Taylor Budowich wrote in a statement. “He obviously has a political death wish for himself and Republican Party, but President Trump and the America First champions in Congress will save the Republican Party and our nation.”
What seems to have escaped much notice in the brief brouhaha over Trump’s latest brutal attack on McConnell and his wife is the substance, so to speak, of his argument. Two earlier Truth Social posts present it in a slightly less incoherent manner:
The link goes to a column by Deroy Murdock that breezily asserts McConnell should have gone to the mats to extract massive concessions from Democrats:
As President Donald J. Trump’s longtime policy adviser Stephen Miller repeatedly pleaded: McConnell should have demanded a continuing resolution through Feb. 1 — beyond the wingspans of lame ducks — and insisted on adding this sentence: “No federal funds shall be spent to relocate illegal aliens away from the southern border.”
Alternatively, McConnell could have added, “No federal funds shall be spent to hire 87,000 new IRS agents, as established in the IRA.”
Or: “No federal funds shall be spent by the IRA’s 87,000 new IRS agents to audit any taxpayer who earns less than $400,000 annually.”
First of all, neither Murdock nor Trump appears to understand that the CR was in fact negotiated between McConnell and Schumer; the primary new spending it approved was urgently needed aid for Ukraine. Schumer was not about to accept some ludicrous MAGA border-control condition or an effort to repeal portions of the Inflation Reduction Act. So, in effect, the complaint is that McConnell did not have the guts to shut down the federal government just over a month before the midterm elections, which is probably the one thing he could have done that would have guaranteed a wide-scale Republican defeat November 8.
Now nobody really cares whether Murdock has a — if you will excuse the expression — death wish for the GOP or doesn’t understand that Democrats will have the power to block Stephen Miller’s fantasy proposals no matter what happens in the midterms. But Trump is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Salena Zito famously said Trump’s supporters took him “seriously, but not literally.” Have we reached the point where Republicans don’t even take him seriously? And where the rest of us barely seem to notice?
It could be an important question going forward, if the GOP lets this unserious man lead them into and beyond 2024.
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