A pivotal moment of the Watergate scandal was when Kentucky Republican Sen. Marlow Cook called for President Nixon’s resignation. The rebuke of the president by a member of his own party, ultimately, doomed Cook’s political future. But history has validated Cook’s courage and independence.
John Yarmuth, now a Democratic congressman (and LEO’s founder), and Mitch McConnell, now Senate majority leader, were both on Cook’s staff.
Fast forward almost 50 years, and McConnell is in the same position as was Cook.
Unfortunately for Kentucky and the nation, McConnell is no Marlow Cook.
We do not expect McConnell to demand Donald Trump’s resignation, but we do expect him to criticize him, rebuke him and, otherwise, conduct himself like the majority leader — a check of the president’s power.
But, as we said, McConnell is no Marlow Cook.
Instead of fulfilling his constitutional responsibilities, he is taking the U.S. Senate hostage to secure his own political future.
McConnell must recuse himself as Senate majority leader, so it can function free of his personal, political interests.
McConnell is up for re-election in 2020. As the Commonwealth of Kentucky becomes more entrenched as a Trump-Republican stronghold, McConnell’s biggest challenge may come from a Trump-esque Republican challenger (oh… say, someone like Gov. Matt Bevin). The last thing McConnell will do is risk finding himself at odds with Trump, who has shown he will attack Republican candidates who disobey him.
It would be bad enough if a Trump-trained McConnell represented only Kentucky. But as Senate majority leader, McConnell sets the agenda for the Senate. He decides what votes will and will not be taken — the fate of any legislation or nomination is in McConnell’s hands.
McConnell will do everything he can to out-Trump any potential challenger.
This is why, for example, the Senate will not vote on a bipartisan bill to protect special prosecutor Robert Mueller from Trump.
McConnell has said he doesn’t see any need for such a bill. Of course, he doesn’t.
“The Mueller investigation is not under threat,” he told reporters. “The president has said repeatedly he’s not going to dismiss the Mueller investigation. He’s said repeatedly it’s going to be allowed to finish. That also happens to be my view.”
The reality is McConnell doesn’t want to upset the king, and it’s interfering with the way the Senate functions.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake has promised to block all judicial nominees in the Senate Judiciary Committee until there is a vote on the protect-Mueller bill. The threat has already led the committee to cancel meetings that would have included votes on over 20 nominees.
The Senate dysfunction is McConnell’s fault. And, with absolute control over the Senate schedule and bills that will be brought to the floor, this is just the beginning.
McConnell’s fear of Trump is also why he won’t denounce blatant racism and lies, both from Trump and Republican Senate candidates Trump supports. During the Mississippi senate race, McConnell wouldn’t denounce the blatant racist language of now-Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. News reports showed that even after Hyde-Smith (whose Democratic opponent was a black man) made a lynching joke on the campaign trail, McConnell pressed Major League Baseball lobbyists to donate to her campaign.
In the aftermath of the clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Trump said there are “good people” on both sides, McConnell spent the night strategizing with aides, according to news reports. His statement the next day said, “There are no good neo-Nazis.”
He did not mention Trump’s remark.
If only McConnell felt more strongly about racism than about obstructing President Obama. It took McConnell only an hour after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death to announce that the Senate would not vote on any Obama nominee to replace him.
Then again, McConnell stood before a Confederate flag for an award from the Sons of the Confederacy to help his political prospects (Google: “Mitch McConnell Confederate Flag”).
What makes it all worse is McConnell is not racist. However, if a person isn’t prepared to stand up for what they believe in, then they have opinions, not principles — and McConnell has proven his only principle is winning.
We can’t expect McConnell to out-Trump Bevin… maybe nobody can. But McConnell is going to work to stay out of Trump’s doghouse just long enough to secure the 2020 Republican nomination, even if that means taking the U.S. Senate hostage.