Mitch McConnell is having a bad week, and an even worse year. Of the majority leader's move to postpone the upper chamber's health care bill, the majority whip, John Cornyn, said "This is more than just about health care, as important as that is. This is about keeping our promises and demonstrating our ability to govern."
Is it ever. McConnell and his fellow Republicans have it all — the Senate, the House, the White House — and yet they're flopping around, they're under siege, they're keeping no promises and, much to the regret of their rank-and-file cheerleaders, they are vividly demonstrating their ability to govern.
Aside from confirming a Supreme Court justice only through hook and appalling crook, the Republican Senate has accomplished precisely nothing, while the Republican House has merely demonstrated that it's the most craven political assemblage since antebellum Democrats. At the apex of this barren grotesquery (or full-fledged delight, depending on one's politics) sits Donald Trump — who is, perhaps, Mitch McConnell's worst enemy.
So says a wholly enjoyable Politico piece, which opens with: "Top GOP officials and senators say White House chaos and impulsiveness are crippling efforts to expand the Republican Senate majority in 2018, unraveling long-laid plans and needlessly jeopardizing incumbents."
Senate Republicans could have been rallying the base by spending their time investigating the many imaginary crimes of President Hillary Clinton; instead, they got their man last year, who now has got them by only one of the three body parts of balls, hearts, and minds. There is, reports Politico, "a widespread sense of exasperation with the president, interviews with nearly two dozen senior Republicans reveal, and deep frustration with an administration they believe doesn’t fully grasp what it will take to preserve the narrow majority or add to it." What it is that Trump even partially grasps — except his total greatness — is up for debate.
An early bit of McConnell's tactical brilliance came in urging Trump to appoint Senate Democrats Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp to his cabinet — "a gambit that would have improved the GOP’s odds of seizing their [West Virginia and North Dakota] seats. Yet Trump ignored the advice." Also (obviously) against McConnell's advice is that Trump appears poised to attack Arizona's Republican senator, Jeff Flake, who hurt Donald's feelings during the campaign, and then had the decency to criticize Trump's firing of James Comey. For McConnell, not to mention Flake, "Trump-fueled primary worries are intensifying." And just yesterday the president, through his outside group of America First Policies, launched a million-dollar ad campaign against Republican Sen. Dean Heller "over his opposition to the now stalled Obamacare repeal bill." Trump's group ultimately decided to pull the ads, but only after a "massive backlash from senior Republicans."
Alas, this year is only middled-aged; there remains plenty of time for Trump to do even more damage to McConnell's senatorial cohort before the serious fun starts next year. This should gladden the balls, hearts and minds of "the resistance." The Republican House is already teetering — pretty much on its own — and Trump is doing all he can to jeopardize McConnell's majority.