New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer explained that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is enabling President Donald Trump’s bad behavior at a time that Americans need a leader the most.
“On Thursday, March 12th, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, could have insisted that he and his colleagues work through the weekend to hammer out an emergency aid package addressing the coronavirus pandemic,” she wrote. “Instead, he recessed the Senate for a long weekend and returned home to Louisville, Kentucky. McConnell, a seventy-eight-year-old Republican who is about to complete his sixth term as a senator, planned to attend a celebration for a protégé, Justin Walker, a federal judge who was once his Senate intern. McConnell has helped install nearly two hundred conservatives as judges; stocking the judiciary has been his legacy project.”
Democrats were working with the White House’s Steve Mnuchin, and McConnell was needed for the next step. He was cracking jokes at an event halfway across the country during the crisis. It took McConnell 11 days to come up with a bill.
“McConnell, who is known as one of the wiliest politicians in Washington, soon reframed the narrative as a personal success story,” The New Yorker said. “In Kentucky, where he is running for reëlection, he launched a campaign ad about the bill’s passage, boasting, ‘One leader brought our divided country together.’ At the same time, he attacked the Democrats, telling a radio host that the impeachment of Trump had ‘diverted the attention of the government’ when the epidemic was in its early stages. In fact, several senators—including Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, and Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut—had raised alarms about the virus nearly two months before the Administration acted, whereas Trump had told reporters around the same time that he was “not concerned at all.” And on February 27th, some three weeks after the impeachment trial ended, McConnell had defended the Administration’s response, accusing Democrats of ‘performative outrage’ when they demanded more emergency funding.”
The New Yorker explained that McConnell’s worship for Trump is really a kind of “cynical political genius.” He’s both protecting his caucus and covering himself in a deeply red state where Trump is more popular than even he is.
“When the pandemic took hold, the President’s standing initially rose in national polls, and McConnell and Trump will surely both take credit for the aid package in the coming months,” said the report. “Yet, as covid-19 decimates the economy and kills Americans across the nation, McConnell’s alliance with Trump is looking riskier. Indeed, some critics argue that McConnell bears a singular responsibility for the country’s predicament. They say that he knew from the start that Trump was unequipped to lead in a crisis, but because the President was beloved by the Republican base, McConnell protected him.”
The report recalled that McConnell even blocked witnesses at the impeachment trial, which basically guaranteed that Trump would remain in office.
“There are a lot of people disappointed in him. He could have mobilized the Senate. But the Republican Party changed underneath him, and he wanted to remain in power,” said David Hawpe, the former editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Columnist and journalism professor Al Cross called McConnell’s partnership with Trump “the most important political relationship in the country.”
According to The New Yorker, Cross “had hoped that McConnell would push back against Trump. After all, past Republicans have crossed party lines to defend democracy—from censuring Joe McCarthy to forcing the resignation of President Richard Nixon.”
“But Trump and McConnell have come to understand each other,” Cross said. “The President needs him to govern. McConnell knows that if their relationship fell apart it would be a disaster for the Republican majority in the Senate. They’re very different in many ways, but fundamentally they’re about the same thing—winning.”
The extensive piece goes on to explain even more ways in which McConnell has sold his soul in further efforts to protect himself in what will likely be one of the most difficult elections of his career. Democrats are still fighting it out in a primary election, but the race has already seen more donations than any other in the country. As the coronavirus creeps into the southern states, McConnell could end up in a desperate situation explaining why he hasn’t done enough while his state is suffering.