McConnell Is “The Terminator”

Mitch McConnell is “The Terminator” — “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

Last week, McConnell proved once again that he will stop at nothing to achieve his mission — and nothing is too sacred to weaponize for partisan gain.

As the Senate was considering a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol, McConnell wrapped his ghoulish hands around the neck of the effort. One Republican senator told CNN, “McConnell has even made the unusual move of asking wavering senators to support filibustering the bill as ‘a personal favor’ to him.”

McConnell’s personal appeals to his colleagues came as the mother of Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick — who died the day after the Capitol riot — was lobbying Republican senators to pass the bill, form the bipartisan commission and provide answers to what led to her son’s death. 

Of course, McConnell was successful in killing the commission. 

Protect American democracy? Nah. Ensure nothing like Jan. 6 ever happens again? Not if it hurts Republicans’ chances in the next election. 

It was a new low for McConnell. Even worse than when he declared his intention to obstruct and undermine President Barack Obama, saying, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Or, corrupting the integrity of the Supreme Court. Or when he worked with the Trump White House to defend the president during his impeachment trial in the Senate. Or saying just few months into the Biden Presidency, “One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.” 

Those who have followed McConnell closely — those who, like me, have spent over a decade screaming at the TV and into the newspapers — understand McConnell doesn’t have supernatural powers. He can be stopped. What we can’t understand is how people still don’t understand McConnell’s game — or pretend he’s someone he’s not. 

How does McConnell’s oldest strategy keep fooling the media, voters, Democrats, even his own Republican colleagues?

They all fail to realize McConnell’s original philosophy: He relies on you to forget.

Washington Post columnist Dana Millbank, in his recent column, “McConnell focuses ‘100 percent’ on blocking Biden — and zero percent on America,” came to the right conclusion, that “there’s no negotiating when McConnell has a 100 percent focus on obstruction.” “Because unrelenting obstruction is McConnell’s only way to placate the GOP base in the face of Trump’s attacks,” he wrote. The week before Millbank’s column was titled: “Once again, Mitch McConnell comes to Trump’s rescue.” 

Millbank, like many others, once again fell for the McConnell trap — they forgot. This obstruction had nothing to do with Trump… it was always about McConnell. Fear of Trump is a convenient political excuse for McConnell, who was always going to obstruct something that might hinder his path back to majority leader. 

As for the politicians — from President Biden to Sen. Joe Manchin — their appeasing McConnell is easier to understand… to a point: They have their own political interests and strategies. They’ve decided that, for whatever reason, they need the veneer of bipartisanship — pretend McConnell is someone he isn’t.

But if McConnell has proven one thing, it’s that asymmetrical bipartisanship doesn’t work — and the media and voters will forget who is to blame for government dysfunction. 

I’m convinced Mitch doesn’t care about how he’s remembered, so long as he’s remembered. The legacy he’s trying to forge is one of consequence, even if that consequence is burning down every institution, political norm or American democracy. 

Joshua Green, in “Strict Obstructionist” (The Atlantic, 2011), wrote of McConnell: “Beyond this lies the fundamental question of whether a party has any responsibility to address society’s problems in good faith. So far, Mc­Con­nell’s legacy as Republican leader is to have taken his caucus further than anyone else toward the proposition that it doesn’t. But the public is not likely to notice that anytime soon.”

I’d hoped my time at LEO would outlast Sen. Mitch McConnell. Now, I just hope American democracy outlasts him. It’s going to be close.