It seems the man has no sense of irony.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is many things: a gleefully ghoulish orchestrator of Christian nationalism; a masterful parliamentary tactician; a man utterly devoid of charisma or even a hint of approachable human warmth. He’s all these things and more, actually. But what Mitch McConnell is not is stupid. In fact, as far as sheer political computational power goes, he’s pound-for-pound perhaps the single most skilled operator Washington, D.C., has seen since Lyndon Johnson — if not longer.
With that in mind, it’s worth noting that when McConnell accuses President Biden of having committed an unspeakable denigration of one of America’s precious political institutions, he’s not doing so because he actually thinks this is something that happened — or even that political institutions are worth respecting in the first place. He’s doing it because he knows it will help advance what has been his longstanding, overarching goal: returning the United States to a state of repressive conservative dystopia for everyone who isn’t a straight white male Republican, or a willing subordinate thereof.
Speaking on Friday in Madrid, where he was attending a NATO program this past week, Biden accurately described the Supreme Court’s recent decision to abolish the federal right to reproductive health care as a “destabilizing” event, which, considering the ruling overturned nearly half a century of legal precedent, is a pretty unremarkable and extremely accurate assessment. Nevertheless, despite spending much of his career doing exactly that kind of destabilizing, McConnell leapt on Biden’s remarks, blasting them in a press release as “unmerited and dangerous” and complaining that for Biden to have done so “from the world stage is below the dignity of the president.”
“It is behavior like the president’s that undermines equal justice and the rule of law,” McConnell — without a hint of irony — declared later in his statement.
Now, I realize accusing McConnell and his ilk of hypocrisy is a fools game — he has zero sense of shame, and seems to actively enjoy flaunting any glimmer of consistency between the standards he holds for himself and those by which he criticizes others. Still, even by those standards, McConnell’s latest attack on Biden is a painfully thin overreach that ultimately only highlights just how little McConnell has to actually complain about. Keep in mind that if McConnell were truly worried about undermining justice and the rule of law, particularly as it pertains to presidents on the world stage, he would have blasted himself off into outer space between the years 2017 and 2021. But, no, of course he doesn’t really care about that sort of stuff. He just knows that Biden’s bare minimum critique of the Court comes as a growing backlash against Republican judicial manipulation (and Republicans in general) threatens what once was a virtually guaranteed reclamation of one if not both chambers of Congress for the GOP this fall. If anything, this is McConnell scrambling to regain the edge.
Which is all to say that McConnell isn’t dumb. He knows exactly what he’s doing here, and is counting on the general public not knowing in turn, as his best bet for continuing to do what he’s always done: make things worse for millions of people across the country.