A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bill Straub: Sum of Trump’s missteps still not enough to shake McConnell’s blind support


WASHINGTON – There simply is no polite way to say this:

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has endorsed, and wants you to vote for, an overt racist and make this overt racist the 45th president of the United States of America, vowing to intercede, if need be, to stop that prospective president from doing any racist thing he happens to conjure up during his four-to-eight years in office.

Now, mind you, Mitch thinks the racist things his party’s candidate, billionaire businessman and all-around oaf Donald J. Trump, says are “outrageous and inappropriate’’ and projects the sort of obviously offensive language that would never leave his own pursed lips.

That’s awfully decent of you, sport, but the Louisville lawmaker apparently isn’t so overcome with fury over his candidate’s never-ending bigotry that he’s willing to do the right and proper thing and admit it might be to the republic’s everlasting benefit if someone else was elected to the highest office in the world.

Speaking to Judy Woodruff on the PBS Newshour this week, McConnell allowed that “it’s been pretty clear that, in the right-of-center world, that is, the primaries and caucuses, conducted among Republicans, they wanted to do something different, and that’s our nominee…’’

“I think we need to respect the wishes of voters,’’ he said.

We could play the old game here of “If Republican voters had selected (take your pick: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Justin Bieber) would you still honor their wishes?’’ No matter. Suffice to say our boy Mitch remains on the market for a “Vote for the Racist’’ bumper sticker.

All of this may seem unfair to a man who has represented Kentucky in the Senate for better than 30 years and is almost single-handedly responsible for reviving the Republican Party in what once was considered the land of the Yellow Dog Democrat. And he is certainly not alone in pledging allegiance to the GOP’s admittedly flawed presidential candidate – Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Somewhereorother Lewis County, have likewise followed suit, for instance.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI, after a short stint playing Hamlet, also has joined the parade with limited enthusiasm, as have an untold number of Capitol Hill Republicans.

But McConnell merits special attention because his blinders-on support for Donald Trump is yet another example of his propensity to place party before country. It has proven to be a consistent narrative with the majority leader. He has, for instance, refused to consider President Obama’s highly-qualified nominee for a seat in the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, which opened with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, thus leaving the high court short a member for what promises to be more than a year.

Meanwhile, a full 10 percent of the nation’s U.S. District Court seats are vacant because of McConnell’s intent to obstruct nominees from a Democratic administration.

And it doesn’t end there. According to a study published in the Duke Law Journal the average time the Senate took to confirm a president’s nominees for administration positions like attorney general and defense secretary soared from 59 days under Ronald Reagan to 127 days during Obama’s first six years in office.

All of that is a result of McConnell playing games to bolster Republican prominence at the nation’s obvious expense. If you have a better explanation, bring it on. But, frankly, it’s an open-and-shut case.

McConnell’s continued support of Trump is just another chapter and it all has to do with his status as majority leader, a position he seemingly has coveted since he was a wee tyke. Republicans currently hold a 54-44 edge over Democrats in the upper chamber with two independents who caucus with the Democrats. A Democratic landslide in the presidential race this fall could conceivably imperil the GOP advantage and deprive McConnell of the job he has so long desired.

That’s it. It matters little to old Mitch that the man he is promoting is a racist. He intends to retain his position and if that means promoting a bigot to become president of the United States, he’ll promote a bigot.

Nowhere in his comments did McConnell acknowledge that racism is an issue that should disqualify a person from assuming the high office of president of the United States. Regardless, McConnell is desperate for Trump to serve as the next president.

And let there be no doubt that Trump is a bigot of the first order. He maintains Indiana-born U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, presiding over the federal court trial of a class action suit against his now defunct Trump University – a misnomer if there ever was one – is biased against him because Curiel is “of Mexican heritage’’ and he, Trump, plans to build a wall along the southern border. He further expressed concern that a judge of the Muslin faith would likewise be biased against him because he wants to keep Muslims – all Muslims — out of the country.

Trump also maintains that Mexican immigrants are disproportionately likely to be rapists and Muslims cheered lustily when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. The day after an African-American protestor was accosted by several of his supporters attending a rally in Alabama, Trump tweeted that 81 percent of white people who were homicide victims in the U.S. in 2015 were killed by African-Americans. According to the FBI, the actual percentage is about 15 percent.

There’s plenty more but this will do for the time being, and we haven’t even broached his misogyny. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-NE, said Trump’s comments about Judge Curiel represent the “literal definition of racism.’’ Ryan characterized those same statements as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

Meanwhile, asked by NBC’s Chuck Todd if he considered Trump’s Curiel comments racist during an appearance on Meet the Press Sunday, McConnell refused to answer. Three times.

“I don’t agree with what he had to say,” is the best McConnell could come up with.

If not racist, what then?

Appearing on Face the Nation recently McConnell offered assurances, and tut-tutted in his usual fashion, that people should vote for Trump because the system wouldn’t let him get away with any racist garbage.

“What protects us in this country against big mistakes being made is the structure, the Constitution, the institutions,” McConnell said. “No matter how unusual a personality may be who gets elected to office, there are constraints in this country. You don’t get to do anything you want to.”

Nowhere in his comments did McConnell acknowledge that racism is an issue that should disqualify a person from assuming the high office of president of the United States. Regardless, McConnell is desperate for Trump to serve as the next president.

It was the sainted Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party that Trump now represents, who said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.’’

Both Trump and McConnell have removed all doubt.

Lincoln wept.

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.27.46 AM

Washington correspondent Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.


Related Posts

One Comment

  1. Judith Oetinger says:

    As always, you are right on the money! McConnell is so strange and bizarre..it is a wonder he has remained so long in politics. Now he can be attributed and given credit for helping to take down the GOP and anything good that might have come of it. Grand Old Party??? Oh my! Yes, it is a party…a party of wing nuts.

Leave a Comment