So by now, you should be familiar with this story:
What on earth was Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, perhaps soon to be Senate Majority Leader, doing this morning when he walked onstage at a conservative gathering in Washington brandishing a musket rifle above his head, John Wayne-style?
Was he sending a message to Vladimir Putin? You Russkies might show off your weaponry in Crimea, but we Americans get to do it right here at home, at the annual CPAC conference. Or perhaps the seventy-two-year-old Kentucky stalwart was trying to outdo the previous speakers, who included Senator Ted Cruz, the 2016 hopeful, and congressman Paul Ryan, the right’s designated hitter when it comes to rationalizing tax cuts and government cutbacks.
Actually, McConnell’s purpose was more mundane. He’s facing a reëlection battle this year, with a G.O.P. challenger from the right, Matt Bevin, a Louisville businessman, accusing him of everything from cozying up to lobbyists to recommending a federal judge who issued a ruling favoring gay marriage. And when you want to boost your bona fides with conservatives, many of whom regard you as a hopelessly compromised establishment figure, there’s still nothing like putting on your hunting jacket, grabbing your rifle, and paying homage to the N.R.A.
This being the Gaylord Convention Center rather than a rifle range or a field in Kentucky, McConnell went without the hunting jacket. His official purpose was to present a “lifetime achievement award”—that would be the rifle—from the National Rifle Association to Senator Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma senator who is retiring this year with a hundred-per-cent approval rating from the gun-rights lobby. McConnell handed Coburn the gun, they both admired it, and then McConnell delivered a lengthy attack on President Obama and the Democrats. - The New Yorker, 3/6/14
So McConnell brought out a gun at CPAC to look good for the Tea Party voters back in Kentucky. Not a bad idea except there's one problem:
Whatever the case, McConnell just didn’t look comfortable waving the flintlock musket above his head.
Instead or recalling images of Charlton Heston at NRA conventions, where the late actor incited the crowd by raising a similar gun, McConnell looked a bit more like Michael Dukakis riding in a tank or President Barack Obama shooting skeet at Camp David, or Jimmy Carter doing much of anything.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he didn’t look natural. A search of Courier-Journal archives and the Internet found no other photos of McConnell holding a gun and despite his constant support of gun rights, McConnell has never cultivated the image of a hunter — unless his prey is that of a political sort.
His campaign refused to say if McConnell hunts, shoots targets or even owns a gun and last fall when Grimes challenged McConnell to a shootout at a gun range, he ignored a reporter who asked if he would take her up on her offer and walked away.
“Thanks, guys,” McConnell’s state director, Terry Carmack said, cutting off further questioning.
But what’s even worse for McConnell was the fact that his speech at CPAC appeared to fall flat.
According to The Hill, a Washington, D.C., insiders newspaper, McConnell got a “lukewarm reception” from the CPAC crowd, which has recently tilted toward tea party candidates. - Louisville Courier-Journal, 3/8/14
And both McConnell's opponents called out McConnell on this:
Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was quick to draw comparisons between her gun-handling skills and those of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R). Responding to images of McConnell hoisting a rifle above his head Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Grimes, a Democrat, quipped in a tweet that McConnell wasn’t holding the gun properly, adding, “KY women do it better.”
She also resurrected a tweet from last fall showing of her gun-handling form and challenging McConnell to a little competition.
- Washington Post, 3/7/14
And here's McConnell's Tea Party challenger's response:
The Republican primary challenger for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) compared him giving a rifle to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) at the Conservative Political Action Conference to Democratic President candidate Michael Dukakis's infamous head 1988 tank ad.
"It reminded me of that," Bevin told TPM on Friday. "Because stunts sometimes don't go over as they were intended to."
Bevin added "I think highly of Tom Coburn and I don't think highly of the NRA and I don't begrudge the premise behind it but it was a prop that was used for effect and time will tell how effective that prop will be."
The ad featured Dukakis rising out of an M1 Abrams tank at a General Dynamics Land Systems plant in Michigan. Originally intended to bolster his perception as a future commander-in-chief, the campaign event backfired badly. Parts of the event were used in attack ads by George H.W. Bush's presidential campaign and were considered very effective. - TPM, 3/7/14
But lets not forget that Bevin, like McConnell, is also a huge asshole:
Matt Bevin, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) challenger in the Senate primary, accused his state's attorney general of "abdicating" his responsibilities by refusing to appeal a ruling on Kentucky's gay marriage ban.
"I think that the attorney general's job is to represent the will of the people of Kentucky," Bevin told TPM on Friday. "I think he's abdicating on that responsibility. And it's disappointing to me that he's doing so because the taxpayers of Kentucky have to pay outside counsel to do the job we're already paying him to do."
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway (D) recently announced that he would not appeal a ruling from a federal judge that said that Kentucky had to recognize same-sex marriages in other states. In an interview with TPM, he said, "I thought long and hard. I thought about the arc of history." - TPM, 3/7/14
But back to McConnell:
This is where common sense comes into play. If McConnell owned a gun, hunted, or had remote familiarity with the thing that he was waving over his head at CPAC, his campaign would have been crowing about it in ads across the state. Mitch McConnell already possesses a lower than dirt approval rating, and the electorate feels little connection with him. That’s the whole reason why Mitch was waving the rifle over his head like a demented cross between Charleton Heston and Charles Bronson at CPAC.
McConnell was looking for the photo op. He was hoping that the picture and video would show the folks back home that he really is one of them. He never expected anyone to ask whether or not he shoots, or if he even owns a gun. Sen. McConnell has never played the good old boy hunter before, and his attempt to send a misleading message has completely backfired.
It is a symbol of Minority Leader McConnell’s desperation to keep his seat. This stunt also highlights why he is in serious jeopardy of getting bounced out of the Senate. McConnell thinks Kentucky voters really are that dumb. His campaign believed if he was seen with a gun, the voters would be convinced that he is regular folk.
All candidates do this kind of posing, but when asked do you own a gun? They usually don’t refuse to answer the question. The McConnell campaign’s refusal to answer is the equivalent of answering no. Figuratively speaking, Mitch McConnell shot himself in the foot by trying to pretend that he was something that he wasn’t.
Voters aren’t buying what their senior senator is selling, and McConnell is sending himself into retirement by treating people as if they are total morons. Mitch McConnell is fooling none of the people none of the time, and his act has worn thin in Kentucky. - Politicus USA, 3/8/14
McConnell's finding himself in a tough spot with Republican and Tea Party voters. Stunts like the gun at CPAC are just one of many ways McConnell's trying to win over his base:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been lobbying behind the scenes for a Kentucky bill that would allow a candidate to run for two federal offices at the same time, according to a state senator.
Kentucky Sen. Damon Thayer (R) on Thursday officially introduced a bill aimed at clarifying a state law that would allow U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to appear on the ballot for the presidency in 2016 as well as reelection to the Senate.
Thayer said he introduced the bill after being approached by Paul’s staff and told the Lexington Herald-Leader that McConnell is “strongly behind” the proposal as well, and has been making calls to state lawmakers about it.
"I know he's in favor of this, and he's been working behind the scenes to try to help," Thayer told the newspaper about McConnell.
McConnell has formed an alliance with the junior senator since his election in 2010, and Paul has endorsed McConnell’s reelection bid this year.
Thayer admitted the chances that the proposal would be approved are “quite small.” - The Hill, 3/7/14
While at the same time, McConnell has been attacking both Bevin and Tea Party groups:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) campaign launched a new radio ad that calls attacks from his primary challenger Matt Bevin “absurd, wrong and ridiculous.”
The ad seeks to undermine the credibility of Bevin and the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), which has endorsed him, by pointing out inconsistencies in their records.
“Matt Bevin and out-of-state special interest groups are attacking Mitch McConnell. Nothing new. But can you believe them?” a narrator opens the ad.
The narrator quotes PolitiFact calling Bevin's attacks “absurd," adding they were “about what you’d expect from Matt Bevin, who claimed on his resume that he went to prestigious MIT, when he didn't even attend.”
Of the SCF, the narrator points to a recent report that the group, which pushes fiscal conservatism, owns an expensive townhouse in D.C.
“Press reports reveal that they solicit money from people under the guise of advocating for conservative principles but then spend it on a $1.4 million luxury townhouse with a wine cellar and hot tub in Washington, D.C.,” the narrator says.
“So the attacks on McConnell? Absurd, wrong and ridiculous,” the narrator closes. - The Hill, 3/7/14
And McConnell and his establishment buddies are going to fight Tea Party challengers like Bevin tooth, nail and claw:
As conservative activist groups stirred up trouble for establishment Republican Senate candidates in 2010 and 2012, party leaders in Washington first tried to ignore the insurgents, then tried to reason with them, and ultimately left it to primary voters to settle the matter.
But after several of those conservatives — in Nevada, Colorado and Delaware in 2010 and in Indiana and Missouri in 2012 — managed to win their primaries but lose in the general election, party leaders felt stung by what they saw as avoidable defeats.
This election season, Republicans led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are taking a much harder line as they sense the majority within reach. Top congressional Republicans and their allies are challenging the advocacy groups head on in an aggressive effort to undermine their credibility. The goal is to deny them any Senate primary victories, cut into their fund-raising and diminish them as a future force in Republican politics.
“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” Mr. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said in an interview, referring to the network of activist organizations working against him and two Republican incumbents in Kansas and Mississippi while engaging in a handful of other contests. “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.” - The New York Times, 3/8/14
At least we know where McConnell's priorities are. Getting stuff dine like governing sure isn't high on that list:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that those hoping for comprehensive immigration reform and other policy changes from Congress will be disappointed this year.
In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, McConnell tempered expectations by blaming President Barack Obama for recalcitrance on various types of policy reforms, rather than a timid Congress in a midterm election year.
"There's a lot of big important things that need to be dealt with that aren't going to happen this year," McConnell said. "These things do not get hatched in Congress and forced on a reluctant president. Never happens, 435 people in the House and a 100 people in the Senate do not collectively end up tackling tough stuff and forcing it on the president."
In February, McConnell told reporters that immigration reform wouldn't happen in 2014 due to "irresolvable conflict" between the Senate and House.
The Senate minority leader also discussed global warming and climate change with the Inquirer. According to the paper, he said he thinks climate change is not a phenomenon and is not influenced by human behavior. - Huffington Post, 3/7/14
Of course McConnell's other top priority is defeating Alison Lundergan Grimes (D. KY) by using fake outrage:
Kentucky may be home to the country’s most closely watched Senate race, but it is no place for loose talk about Nazis. That, at least, is something Kelsey Cooper feels very strongly about. So when Cooper, the spokeswoman for the state’s Republican Party, heard that a supporter of Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic candidate, compared the defeat of the incumbent, Mitch McConnell, to the liberation of Europe, the young operative snapped into peak indignation mode. Cooper issued a statement calling it “completely inappropriate” and “appalling.” “That kind of hateful rhetoric,” Cooper said, “has no place in public discourse in our beloved Commonwealth.” She demanded a “heartfelt apology” from Grimes.
To no one’s surprise, Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state, did not apologize, heartily or otherwise. Neither did her spokeswoman, Charly Norton, who had just been in the throes of her own conniption-by-news-release. It involved an incident in which someone at the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out a link to a picture of Grimes’s head superimposed over the body of Amber Lee Ettinger, better known as Obama Girl, the singing viral sensation. Norton accused McConnell’s campaign of implying that Grimes was “asking for it” — even though no one ever used that expression or even insinuated the association. But that was beside the point. No Grimes supporter, after all, had ever used the word “Nazi.”
All is fair in the fog of fake outrage. McConnell and Grimes may be the main combatants, but the front lines of affront in this Bluegrass State battle are occupied by the competing spokeswomen, Norton and Cooper. They brim with enthusiasm for their jobs, their candidates and their country. But perhaps more important, they are fluent in the lingua franca of chagrin, and eager to share with us — via clinically composed news release, email, tweet or whatever — how deeply troubled and appalled they are by something their opponent did, didn’t do or might possibly be associated with (they’ll leave it to the people of Kentucky to decide). Recently Cooper was beside herself that Grimes would accept a campaign donation from Woody Allen. Norton was horrified that McConnell, the Senate minority leader, would “laugh in the faces of more than 18,000 unemployed Kentuckians.” - New York Times, 3/3/14
But Grimes also has a new attack line against McConnell:
Alison Lundergan Grimes opened a new line of attack on U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday, suggesting that he does not support legislation that would redirect money that helps pay for party conventions and presidential campaigns to pay for research into pediatric cancer, autism and other diseases.
“The response from Mitch McConnell that they received: He’ll keep their support in mind,” the Democratic Senate candidate said, speaking at a fundraising event for Emerge Kentucky, which recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office.
Josh Holmes, an adviser to McConnell’s campaign, said the campaign couldn’t immediately respond to specific charges because it didn’t have access to Senate files at night over the weekend but he issued a statement saying that McConnell historically has supported cancer research funding.
“Very few people have done more for cancer research funding than Mitch McConnell,” Holmes said. “This is another case of Alison Lundergan Grimes having less than a newspaper-level understanding of the facts."?
The bill is called the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act and is named after a 10-year-old girl from Loudon County, Va., who died last year of inoperable brain cancer.
Among supporters of the legislation is Angela Goodwin, of Calhoun, Ky., whose son Lane Goodwin died of a rare form of cancer in 2012.
Lane achieved a degree of fame through his Facebook page, which had nearly 400,000 followers at the time of his death and inspired thousands of people to post “thumbs-up” photos for him. - Louisville Courier-Journal, 3/9/14
It's go time folks. If you want to get involved or donate to Grimes' campaign, you can do so here: