President Donald Trump had a pretty good week.
He renegotiated a NAFTA agreement, changed its name and apparently has had positive feedback on the deal from union representatives.
Unemployment is down to its lowest level since man landed on the moon.
And in a move predicted by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the United States Senate confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh by the thinnest of margins (50-48) to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The last bit of news could be President Trump’s greatest legacy and change the way our court system operates for the next generation.
With the confirmation a thin veneer of judicial impartiality in government is gone. This country is a dichotomy of self-interests battling each other hoof and tail over every issue.
The “united” part of the United States appears not to exist.
While Trump usually gets the blame or credit for cleaving the country asunder, this week the networks and newspapers which have given us wall-to-wall Kavanaugh coverage have found a new culprit: Senator Mitch McConnell.
He’s alternatively the gravedigger of democracy, the executioner or the man who broke America.
Take your pick.
But make no mistake – the Mitch McConnell I met in 1978 doesn’t care what you think.
He is after the attention. He bathes in and loves it.
Mitch McConnell, for whatever else he may be is the man who always wanted to be the center of attention.
When I met him he was just beginning his ascendency into the nether regions of situational ethics and mad power grabbing.
He was the county judge/executive in Jefferson County, Kentucky. Louisville, with several hundred thousand voters was far more progressive than the surrounding counties and McConnell campaigned as a GOP moderate to get elected. Enough people believed him to elect him – twice.
I sat down to interview him as a high school journalist and spent an hour in his office. I remember him saying at a few times, “so do you have anything else you’d like to know?”
I was flattered as a mere high school student to get so much time with the county’s chief executive – especially since the scandal-ridden democratic mayor of Louisville wouldn’t even talk to me. I took advantage of every minute. Only later did I wonder if there was another reason McConnell spent time with me.
I graduated from Seneca High School in Louisville, were Diane Sawyer, Jerry Abramson and Wes Unseld also graduated. At the time I was the editor-in-chief of my school newspaper and we were doing a special issue on “The City of the 70s” as my hometown had billed itself.
McConnell was and wanted to be part of the effort of a progressive – at least so it seemed.
By 1984 that changed.
McConnell that year campaigned for and won a U.S. Senate seat by upending the junior senator in Kentucky – Dee Huddleston. The election was extremely close. Huddleston had the edge as an incumbent and as resident of rural Kentucky. Anyone from Louisville was often seen as too “big city” and liberal for the rest of the state and rare was it that Louisville politicians successfully ran for statewide office, including governor.
But McConnell was crafty. Though Huddleston had an exemplary attendance record during his 12 years in the senate, McConnell accused him of putting his private speaking engagements ahead of his Senate responsibilities.
This culminated in an ad campaign featuring a bunch of hunters with barking blood hounds searching for the missing Huddleston. “Switch to Mitch” bumper stickers were seen across the Bluegrass state.
Rural Kentucky loved it and McConnell became the only GOP candidate to ride in on President Ronald Reagan’s reelection coattails despite a presidential landslide. So if you’re keeping score, McConnell is Reagan’s most notable legacy.
Those who helped run McConnell’s campaign and produce those ads later said they never met a more malleable candidate than the incoming senator.
He would do anything to get elected. He was a people pleaser – one who craved for and sought the limelight to prove his own worth.
Once in the Senate McConnell abandoned any pretense of moderation and instead courted the far right that favored Reagan and the money stream that came with it. McConnell had been pragmatic and accommodating, but once he dug himself in like a deer tick in the U.S. Senate, he used his conniving tactics to oppose anything the far right didn’t like and they cheered him on.
At the same time, he continued to show his malleable streak. Originally opposed to President Trump, the Donald successfully turned McConnell into a lap dog in front of the news media at a Rose Garden news conference a few months into his presidency.
Before that, McConnell’s proudest moment had been holding up the 2016 nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. After he began showing the proper fealty to Trump, McConnell then fought hard to repeal Obamacare, called the Democrats obstructionists and after the recent historic fight to get Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court McConnell took a bow and said the fight had re-energized the G.O.P.
The Senator from the Bluegrass State is today considered one of the 100 most important people on the planet.
It is an appellation to which he lovingly grins.
McConnell has longed to be important. He’ll grovel anywhere if there is power to be taken, borrowed or usurped. He showed that to me when I was in high school. I’ve seen it covering him in the 40 years hence.
This is not about Republicans or Democrats – both of whom are parties filled with elected officials that are less than decent.
It is about the lengths to which McConnell will go to achieve his ends and why he needs to be forgotten – the ultimate punishment for him.
He has learned how to win and does so with aplomb. He never lets any defeat destroy him. In many ways, he is the living embodiment of the American dream. Yet his efforts are twisted, his desires perverted from their original intent and his determination is that of a madman instead of an adult intent on making America great – again or ever.
With McConnell, it is all about defeating the opposition, digging in your heels and staying the course, even if the course will take you to the shoals. For once at the shoals you can blame the opposition even as you take on water.
It is never McConnell’s fault and McConnell, with the survival instincts of a rabid rat, will always fight on.
But in the process he has become the most divisive political force in U.S. history. He is morally repugnant and those who tell him he is as prominent as he believes himself to be only feeds his energy.
It would be best if he were destined to be an unanswered question in a Trivial Pursuit game in the next century. Who is Mitch McConnell? Could be the second least-answerable question next to who is John Forsyth sr.? (Look it up).
McConnell’s legacy should be the political equivalent of bile rising your throat as a burp. Acidic, distasteful but once gone quickly forgotten.
President Trump, for all that his detractors have to say about him has done more positive for the country in the last year and a half than McConnell has in his entire life.
That should say all anyone needs to know about the public efforts of Mitch McConnell.