Bill Straub: Play with fire, get burned; Trump is making that clear when it comes to Mitch McConnell Skip to content

Bill Straub: Play with fire, get burned; Trump is making that clear when it comes to Mitch McConnell

Over the past week, Trump has rabidly attacked his one-time ally, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. He has displayed great delight in calling McConnell a “broken old crow” while accusing him of a barrel-load of sins both real and imagined.

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It would be inaccurate to maintain that former President Donald J. Trump has finally gone off the rails — the Orange Menace was already and has for a long time been a psychological train wreck.

But his most recent fascination, babbled ad infinitum over a series of emails dispensed to his followers, firmly establishes that the man 77 million people thought should be returned to the most powerful and influential position in the world is demented and should be found nowhere other than a convalescent home.

Over the past week, Trump has rabidly attacked his one-time ally, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville, in a series of missives that increasingly show him drowning in the deepest part of the deep end. He has displayed great delight in calling McConnell a “broken old crow” while accusing him of a barrel-load of sins both real and imagined.

Consider this snarling indictment, entered Nov. 17, that attacks McConnell for voting to extend the debt limit and supporting the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that, McConnell has said, would be “a godsend to Kentucky.” It reads in part:

This is the Broken Old Crow’s fault. He could have won it all using the Debt Ceiling — they were ready to fold. Now the Democrats have a big victory and the wind at their back. McConnell is a fool and he damn well better stop their “Dream of Communism Bill” and keep his Senators in line, or he should resign now, something he should have done a long time ago. Use the Debt Ceiling like it should have been used, you Old Broken Crow, to do so would hurt our Country far less than this horrible Bill. Any Republican in the House or Senate who votes for this Bill will never ever get a Trump Endorsement. Thank you, and good luck!

So much for Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment — “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” You may have come away with the understanding that Trump no longer cares much for McConnell. His hate is so marked that he issued three emails in the past week on the subject of the GOP leader basically gathered around the theme, “Our Country is being destroyed while Mitch McConnell gives lifelines to those who are destroying it!”

Now let’s be clear before we venture too far into the high grass. McConnell and Trump have done more to ravage American democracy than any two individuals in the 21st Century.

Let’s focus on McConnell, the subject of Trump’s ire. He has consistently placed party before country, grasped power for power’s sake with no concomitant commitment for using that power to move the nation forward, played fast and loose with the rules to steal two Supreme Court seats, has obliterated any sense of comity in the upper chamber he claims to adore, waged a debilitating obstruction campaign to …

Well, let’s just say the indictment against our boy Mitch runs longer than Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. But one charge should be highlighted for our purposes here – he enabled Trump during his entire lying, cheating, vulgar, racist, misogynistic and whatever else have you four years in office, and this is how Trump pays him back.

Some partnership, huh?

So, to some extent, this whole saga revolves around that old axiom: Play with fire and you’re going to get burned. It seems the Orange Menace can teach Othello a few things about obsession – the boy can’t let go. So, this will go on a while with potential consequences for the future.

The relationship between Trump and McConnell has always been a bit dicey. Trump thought he was handling McConnell and McConnell thought he was handling Trump. And they both got snookered. In the aftermath of the 2020 election which showed Trump falling in his re-election bid to President Biden by about 7 million votes, the now ex-president expected Republicans to fall in line and back his claim that the outcome was “rigged” and that steps should be taken to ensconce himself back in the White House, post haste.

McConnell eventually balked and the entire Trump world came crashing down on him. Relations worsened further after Jan. 6 when Trump supporters infamously stormed the Capitol in what can only be seen as an attempted coup after Trump egged them on. McConnell denounced the insurgency and the rioters and blamed Trump for the violence.

That’s what it took to get the famously agitated Trump agitated, and he’s been piling it on ever since, saying in one email that McConnell should “put up with the scorn from Great Republican Patriots that are already lambasting him.” And, of course, there’s the ever-popular, “The Election was rigged, the facts are clear, and Mitch McConnell did nothing.”

Now what Trump expects to achieve from all this is an open question. McConnell, who is 79, handily won re-election last year and there’s no way for Trump to try and destroy his career until 2026, when the then 84-year-old McConnell may just decide to finally pack it in. Until then, unless events alter course dramatically, it’s unlikely that anyone will challenge him as the Senate GOP leader. Even if someone did, the chance for success would be dim.

What’s more, as Rep. John Yarmuth accurately pointed out in a recent interview, Mitch is shameless. He can’t be shamed into doing the right thing when the opportunity presents itself, and there’s no way for Trump to shame him into whatever he is embracing at the moment.

McConnell’s reaction to this ongoing feud is also puzzling. Given the opportunity to support Trump’s impeachment for his role in the Capitol riots, McConnell balked, even imploring some GOP lawmakers on the edge to oppose conviction as “a personal favor” to him. His actions here are a perfect and non-controvertible example of McConnell placing the Republican Party’s needs over the good of the country.

He also, wondrously, said a few months back that he will support Trump if he is the party’s nominee in 2024.

And he did so without gagging.

How he can possibly consider supporting a man like Trump, given all that has transpired, is incredible, and it sums up Addison Mitchell McConnell perfectly – it’s all about power and serving the party. There’s no thought to what might be best for the nation. He is as amoral as they come.

McConnell has even embraced the Old Crow moniker, noting that it was said to be the favorite whisky of one of his famous Kentucky predecessors – Henry Clay.

There is a potentially interesting backstory. Trump is likely to run for president once again in 2024 and, given the odd mood of the country, he stands a good chance of victory. His second term would then coincide with McConnell’s final two years of his current term.

Assuming McConnell wants to remain as Republican leader, is there any possible way he’ll be able to work with Trump? Regardless, it’s almost certain Trump will seek McConnell’s ouster as leader and, if McConnell opts for an eighth term in 2026, he will undoubtedly back a primary challenger. And, given that Trump is more popular in Kentucky than McConnell, the outcome could prove interesting.


Written by Bill Straub. Cross-posted from the Northern Kentucky Tribune

Bill Straub

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist 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.

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