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Bill Straub: When it comes to Trump’s baseless charges of vote rigging, McConnell is oddly silent

WASHINGTON – If you happen to bump into Judge Crater or Jimmy Hoffa over the next few days you might want to ask them if they’ve heard anything from Mitch McConnell, who recently has been every bit as MIA as Amelia Earhart.

Ever since his choice to serve as president of these United States, Republican Donald J. Trump, has opened his offensive yap, McConnell, the ostensible Senate Republican leader from Louisville, has been as mum as Harpo Marx. With the days dwindling down to a precious few before the Nov. 8 election, Mitch has given the commonwealth and the nation the silent treatment regarding the outrages the GOP standard bearer despite numerous opportunities to step forward and display that he does, indeed, have a spine.

Instead, McConnell has opted to assume the persona of a cigar store Indian, standing wordless while his party devolves into chaos.

There’s leading from behind. And then there’s this.

In McConnell’s defense, as distasteful as that task may be, Trump was not his first choice for the Republican presidential nomination. That distinction fell to fellow Kentuckian Sen. Rand Paul, of Bowling Green, who wiped out rather early in the process, leaving Mitch with no horse in the race.

McConnell let the process play out and quickly endorsed Trump after the New York businessman was assured of the nomination, although his exuberance in doing so can rightly be described as limited. Regardless, Trump was the man chosen to destroy Democrat Hillary Clinton and, hopefully in McConnell’s eyes, help keep the Senate majority in Republican hands, thus permitting him to retain the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed.

But sometimes things just have a way of not working out. Trump continues to slide in the polls and analyst Nate Silver of 538.com who predicted the 2012 presidential election with pinpoint accuracy, now says Democrats stand a 75.8 percent chance of capturing control of the upper chamber – a determination that seems a little high but provides a little insight into what might be happening on the ground.

With all this it’s easy to see McConnell, like Ahab, shaking his fist at God for toying with him over his lifelong obsession. But don’t expect to hear a peep.

It wasn’t always supposed to be that way. During a presentation before the Middletown Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 12, at which time he offered tepid remarks about Trump’s prospects, McConnell was challenged by a supporter of The Donald who noted that McConnell’s enthusiasm for the party’s choice was coming across as inadequate.

In response, McConnell said when Trump “says something I have to speak up on, I will. But that doesn’t mean I don’t support him.”

Well, Trump has said plenty of things one might normally expect would pique the Senate Republican leader’s interests since Aug. 12 and lead him to speak up, including the nominee’s fitness for the office. But McConnell sits on the sidelines twiddling his thumps.

Appearing before the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 10, just short of two months after asserting he would “speak up on’’ Trump’s statements, McConnell woefully told the audience, “If you’re interested in the presidential election, you might as well go ahead and leave because I don’t have any observation to make about it.’’

Over that two-month period, Trump, among other things, was accused of sexual assault by at least nine women, suggested that Hillary Clinton wasn’t hot enough for his taste, proposed she take a drug test prior to the next debate, seemed to approve of Russia’s apparent covert operation to impact the election, accused Clinton of meeting with international bankers “to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty,’’ raising yet again whispers of The Protocols for the Elders of Zion for your friendly, neighborhood anti-Semites, and threatened to jail his Democratic foe should he be positioned to take the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2017.

McConnell has ignored all this, rudely, as is his way, sliding past reporters who are wondering why he still supports a presidential candidate who is less qualified to serve in that post than my dog Boscoe would be in leading the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. All we know is McConnell continues to support the party’s candidate, raising questions about his own judgment, and he ain’t got nothing to say about it.

But the biggest issue McConnell fails to see fit to address from his position as a party leader is Trump’s fable that “the whole election is being rigged,’’ as a result of a massive conspiracy involving powerful interests like the Democratic Party, the media and whoever else catches his ever wandering attention.

“The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places – SAD” Trump tweeted recently. He later added, “Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”

Any baseless claim that an American election is rigged can only force more people to lose faith in the American system of government, a dangerous proposition conceived in Trump’s mind as cover for the fact that his odious campaign has resulted in him getting his butt kicked by a girl, something his misogyny and soft ego prevent him from accepting.

But the proposition, groundless as it is, feeds Trump’s supporters who can then join him in casting the election, and a Clinton presidency, as illegitimate and essentially stolen.

And what evidence does Trump offer to support his claim? Very little beyond the claim that his rallies are drawing “uge’’ electrifying crowds, which is never a good gauge for determining electability. Old hands will remember 1984 when Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale, a former vice president, staged a colossal outdoor rally in downtown Louisville with then-Sen. Wendell Ford, D-Owensboro and rock star Stephen Stills providing the entertainment.

So where, pray tell, is Addison Mitchell McConnell, who is well positioned as leader of the Senate to dismiss Trump’s claims as a lot of hooey and, while he’s at it, acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, this lunatic isn’t cut out for the job?

The event drew thousands standing should-to-shoulder throughout. Anyone witnessing the event would walk away assured that Mondale was destined to be the next president of the United States.

Mondale carried his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. President Reagan took the rest. In Kentucky, Reagan got 60 percent, beating Mondale by more than 250,000 votes.

In an essay for CNN published this week, Joshua A. Douglas, University of Kentucky law professor who specializes in election law and voting rights, characterized Trump’s claims as “inaccurate fear-mongering.’’

Voter fraud occurs “at such a minuscule level,’’ Douglas said, it “hardly ever affects a race.’’

Trump’s frequent suggestions of a rigged election, Douglas said in the CNN piece, are more than “just foolish words of a candidate looking for attention.’’ They are “causing real harm to our democracy’’ as voters begin to question whether their votes will be properly counted.

“Trump’s rhetoric is undermining the inherent virtue of our democracy, revered around the world: the peaceful transition of power,’’ he said.

So where, pray tell, is Addison Mitchell McConnell, who is well positioned as leader of the Senate to dismiss Trump’s claims as a lot of hooey and, while he’s at it, acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, this lunatic isn’t cut out for the job?

Who knows? If you happen to find The Lost Patrol wandering aimlessly about, you might see if McConnell is with them and if he has anything to say.

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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.

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