On Wednesday, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank lambasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for supporting “free speech” as it applies to billionaires spending unlimited money on elections — but not to private citizens criticizing him.
“McConnell, who styles himself a champion of free speech, has lately not been such a fan of free speech directed against him. The psychological boo-boos done to his thin skin have stirred him to hypocrisy,” wrote Milbank. “On radio host (and Post contributor) Hugh Hewitt’s show this week, McConnell renewed his complaint that calling him Moscow Mitch is unacceptable — ‘modern-day McCarthyism,’ he said. ‘You know, I can laugh about things like the Grim Reaper, but calling me Moscow Mitch is over the top.'”
“McCarthyism, by definition, is a type of defamation using indiscriminate allegations based on unsubstantiated charges. But the allegations underlying Moscow Mitch are specific and well-substantiated,” wrote Milbank. “He has blocked virtually every meaningful bill to prevent a repeat of Russia’s 2016 election interference. He led the effort to help a Russian oligarch’s business evade sanctions, and when that business then made a substantial investment in Kentucky, former McConnell aides lobbied for it.”
Milbank suggested that instead, we should give McConnell a new nickname: “Muzzle Mitch.”
“McConnell’s view that the speech he dislikes is defamatory clashes with his professed First Amendment devotion,” wrote Milbank. “His money-is-speech argument has prevailed at the Supreme Court, causing the current flood of unlimited dark money in politics and the unparalleled vitriol it injected. He has, to his credit, defended flag burning, saying, ‘in this country we have a long tradition of respecting unpleasant speech.’ He also has championed free speech on the Senate floor.”
And, Milbank added, his campaign has had plenty of unpleasant political speech of its own to offer. “Hours after the El Paso shooting in August, his campaign tweeted a photo of fake tombstones bearing the name of McConnell’s Democratic Senate challenger Amy McGrath, among others.”
And yet, Milbank said, McConnell will stop at nothing to silence people who criticize him.
“In August, when I detailed McConnell’s role in helping Russian interests escape sanctions, his former campaign manager (and still informal adviser) Josh Holmes proposed that McConnell file ‘a defamation suit’ against me, adding: ‘This guy deserves to lose his job and the Post should pay a price,'” wrote Milbank. “And when 25 anti-gun-violence demonstrators protested outside McConnell’s Louisville home in August, McConnell’s campaign said these were ‘serious calls to physical violence, and we’ve alerted law enforcement.’ But Louisville police told the New York Post the group was ‘protesting peacefully.'”
“Congress returns next week, and McConnell will again do his muzzling thing,” concluded Milbank. “He has served notice that he will squelch debate on any gun-related proposal unless President Trump supports it. ‘If the president is in favor,’ he told Hewitt, ‘I’ll put it on the floor.'”
“No alternative ideas will be considered,” added Milbank. “Thus spake Muzzle Mitch.”