July 30, 2019 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
‘Moscow Mitch’ Deserves It and More
Don't stop speaking the plain truth about this "Russian asset."
Mitch McConnell is mad.
He’s mad that people called him names last weekend. His feelings are hurt.
But he’s not mad just for himself.
He’s mad for his beloved country. People should be able to disagree in America, he said Monday on the Senate floor, without the insults and the name-calling.
“Here we are in 2019,” he said. “The Russians seek to provoke fear and division in our country. American pundits calling an American official treasonous because of a policy disagreement, if anything, is an asset to the Russians. It is disgusting behavior.”
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There you have it.
When you call the Senate Majority Leader “Moscow Mitch,” as MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough did, or “a Russian asset,” as the Post’s Dana Milbank did, you’re doing the bidding of Russian Mafia Boss Vladimir Putin. It’s unreasonable and it’s un-American.
It doesn’t matter that the Russians targeted elections systems in all 50 states, according to a bipartisan Senate report released Thursday. It doesn’t matter that Robert Mueller said other countries are copying the Russian playbook. (The Post reported last week that Iran is now in the propaganda business.) It doesn’t matter that on the same day Mueller told us this McConnell blocked a bipartisan bill aimed at securing election systems. It doesn’t matter that McConnell really is enabling enemy sabotage of our sovereignty, and thus helping to foment a crisis of legitimacy.
What matters is the insults and the name-calling. “Moscow Mitch” is a “smear,” McConnell said. Calling him “a Russian asset” is “modern-day McCarthyism,” he said. And that, he said, is just what the Russians would do. Blocking a bipartisan bill to protect and secure elections systems in all 50 states was merely a “routine occurrence,” McConnell declared. None of that makes “Republicans traitors or un-American.”
Actually, it does.
That McConnell was visibly upset as he spoke should tell us the “insults” and “name-calling” are having their intended emotional effect. The truth, as they say—it hurts.
Don’t stop though.
Don’t stop saying what needs saying. The temptation, among liberals and Democrats anyway, is that we should rise above to encourage McConnell to follow suit. If we’re going to hold the Republicans to a higher calling, we must do the same. I understand the impulse, I really do, but make no mistake: that’s just what McConnell hopes for. Meanwhile, he’ll sabotage our country, over and over, and not lose a second’s sleep.
You see, McConnell isn’t a hypocrite. I know—he looks like one! Sure, he shattered the norm of presidents getting their jurisprudential due, and now he’s trying to shame two milquetoast pundits for speaking plainly about his treachery. No, no. It doesn’t work like that. Once you betray American political norms, there’s no going back.
But again, he’s no hypocrite.
What I feel is a white-hot patriotic rage.
Hypocrites are people who believe in something higher than power and fail to live up to it. Hypocrites can be shamed into doing the right. Not so with Moscow Mitch. He does not believe in anything that does not begin and end with his tribe. There is no there there. There’s only power. Only when he’s losing does he trot out norms he’s already shattered in a cynical attempt to shame critics for naming the whole truth.
Honesty, I would never have written any of this five years ago. I knew McConnell abused the Senate filibuster. I knew he sandbagged Barack Obama’s constitutional right to nominate judges and justices. I knew his prime directive was making Obama a one-term president. I hated everything about McConnell, but I never thought he was acting out of bounds. I thought he was terrible but I never thought he was traitorous.
Things changed after 2016.
Things changed after McConnell knew the Russians were helping Donald Trump but did everything he could to prevent the public from knowing; after the Russians succeeded by moving public opinion in key states against Hillary Clinton; after an illegitimate president placed two justices on the Supreme Court; after the Senate stopped being a law-making body and started being a judge-making body to establish, serve and protect minority rule in a liberal democracy; and after the GOP made normal the treasonous act of accepting aid from enemies overseas in order to win at home.
McConnell is now shedding crocodile tears, pained as he is by the “insults” and the “name-calling.” I feel no sympathy. I feel no impulse to give him the benefit of the doubt. I feel no obligation to hold myself to a higher standard. What I feel is a white-hot patriotic rage. What I feel is what you are no doubt feeling. McConnell is mad.
But we’re madder. And we’re right to be.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.