Political Animal


April 09, 2013 3:59 PM McConnell Does It Again

By Ed Kilgore

I wrote this morning about Mitch McConnell’s devious ways. But during the course of the day he and his people have really outdone themselves in making McConnell the victim in what started out as David Corn’s story (based on a “secret tape”) about the senator and some campaign operatives cheerfully discussing various twistable oppo-research findings about one-time potential rival Ashley Judd.

Brother Benen’s got the goods:

I’ve followed enough campaigns to know how the game is played. McConnell doesn’t want to talk about his opposition-research team digging up dirt, and certainly doesn’t want to talk about his willingness to use the suicidal thoughts of a sixth-grader as a legitimate line of attack in a Senate campaign, so instead he and his aides are trying a misdirection strategy — the recordings aren’t important, the argument goes; it’s how the recordings were obtained that matters.
It’s all rather transparent, predicated on the assumption — which is probably a rather safe one — that the political world is easily distracted by smoke and mirrors.
But the hysterical reaction isn’t helping McConnell’s case. The Republican senator’s office initially blamed “the Left” for “bugging” McConnell’s campaign headquarters. Then McConnell aides blamed Mother Jones magazine. Then Team McConnell blamed a local liberal group called ProgressKY. Then McConnell sent out a fundraising letter arguing that “the liberal media” is responsible.

That’s all today, folks. And it’s gotten steadily crazier, with McConnell calling in the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate the “bugging” (which is pure speculation), and the NRSC demanding that everyone in sight denounce the conspiracy against Mitch.

Throughout it all, Team McConnell hasn’t addressed the substance of Corn’s story at all. And in that sense, it nicely reflects their standard M.O. in all circumstances: ignore substance; blow smoke; and then bask in the praise of the Beltway Commentariat for your “skill.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on April 09, 2013 4:11 PM:

    Out MSM pays more attention to how adroitly the grift is played out, than on the poor griftee's themselves, and future griftee's.

    "Well played, Mitch. Truly, well, well played, Ol' Boy!"

    And the Not-So-Merry-Go-Round, takes another downward spin!!!

  • jkl; on April 09, 2013 4:42 PM:

    David Corn appeared on Martin Bashir's program today and reiterated that the audio of the McConnell meeting was not obtained by illegal wiretapping or Watergate style tactics. He thought perhaps the person who delivered the audio might come out himself and be revealed, when all is said and done.
    Corn and Bashir also made note that McConnell never addressed his maliciousness toward Ashley Judd, but threw the red herring in about attacks on his wife.

    I thought some of the republican senators with McConnell in front of the press had faces showing they were humored or knew something.
    I have had a career in studying behavior and presentation--and none of these guys seemed honest or really troubled. Nor did Mitch--who was clearly evasive and ready for the question about the meanness to Ms. Judd.

  • martin on April 09, 2013 4:45 PM:

    From the "Everything-I-Know-About-Politics-I-Learned-From-The West Wing" perspective:
    One of Mitch's oppo boys released the tape predicting exactly this scenario. Mitch has just under a quantum of plausible deniability.

  • Keith M Ellis on April 09, 2013 4:59 PM:

    If only those ignoramuses had attacked her by quoting her St. Francis paraphrase, which they didn't recognize, as evidence that's she's nuts — given the new pope, it would have been doubly ironic.

  • Peter C on April 09, 2013 5:31 PM:

    I was struck by how lame all of the research actually was. Most of it was: "she's an Obama supporter!", or "she's in favor of Obamacare!" or "She agrees with the Democratic Platform!".

    Well, yeah, she's a Democrat. Next?

    I'm disappointed Judd is not running. She could have made the case for why none of those things are particularly scary or objectionable. I fear now we'll have a candidate who would be frightened away from being associated with the core principles of the Democratic Party.

    We've got to stand up for who we are. We'd win a lot of ground if we just had candidates who laughed at these sorts of attacks instead of worrying about them.

  • jkl; on April 09, 2013 5:37 PM:

    Chuck Todd just reported there was an investigative sweep of McConnell's office and absolutely no wiretaps or bugs or any of that was found.
    Todd seemed like he thought McConnell was ridiculous.

    I say time to turn the subject to McConnell and his ilk planning their campaign in the congressional office, on the tax payer dime, when they are supposed to be doing the work of the American people. And they don't work.
    Time for that investigation and chips falling where they fall for the Turtle.

  • Mark-NC on April 09, 2013 5:38 PM:

    I seem to remember some documents that "proved" GW Bush was AWOL from his required training with the National Guard. The story was about the probable fact that Bush just didn't bother to show up.

    OOOH - LOOK. Look over here. They are forgeries.

    The main story was instantly forgotten and the "alternate" story got pushed by the Republicans.

    Don't assume that McConnell can't do the same thing here.

  • Sparky Satori on April 09, 2013 5:45 PM:

    Why are all the RW asshats jumping to the conclusion that some lefty arranged to bug this meeting? Is it not simpler for someone attending the meeting to record it?

    And Mitch's mouthpiece declaring this is Nixonian is a revealing Freudian slip. The implication - absent a shred of evidence - is that the Dems bugged the meeting.

    But history reminds us that Nixon also bugged himself, which helped lead to his downfall. Please let the parallel hold true.

  • Daniel Buck on April 09, 2013 5:52 PM:

    Assuming someone recorded the meeting without authorization, exactly what federal or Kentucky laws might possibly have been broken?

    Second and more important question. The Minority Leader of the United States Senate actually wasted his time attending a campaign-staff negative research bragging bee?


  • T2 on April 09, 2013 6:01 PM:

    The point here is what was on the tapes and that is why the Minority Leader of the Senate is going crazy. That and the clear possibility that one of his guys is a mole. I'd love to be at McConnell's dinner table tonight.

  • exlibra on April 09, 2013 7:03 PM:

    Had it been a Dem Senator's office, I'd have said, "bugged, for sure, ask James O'Keefe about it"


    But, since it was McConnell's office, my bet is another case -- like Romney's 47% fiasco -- of someone forgetting the principle of "beware of servitor; he may be invisible to you, but he's neither deaf nor blind"

  • Rick B on April 10, 2013 1:15 AM:

    This rather resembles the time Karl Rove called the FBI in to investigate a bug in his office that he planted himself. The news of the investigation request went out just before the Texas Gubernatorial election in which G. W. Bush defeated the much more competent Texas governor Ann Richards.

    Rove's lie to the FBI did not win the election for his candidate. It was Rove's undercover lies to East Texas social conservatives that Ann Richards was appointing all lesbian women to office that held the first position in Republican success in that election.

    McConnell is nothing if not a student of Republican success.

  • James M on April 10, 2013 8:02 AM:

    @Mark-NC on April 09, 2013 5:38 PM:
    "The main story was instantly forgotten and the "alternate" story got pushed by the Republicans.
    Don't assume that McConnell can't do the same thing here"!

    Mark: not so sure about that? Even been sailing? When you are deciding when to tack (adjust course) you watch the surface of the water ahead of you. You can then find the point where the wind is shifting so you know the best place to start the tack.

    I think this is major drawback for Mr. McConnell's election hopes and one that he can not easily overcome. It is one thing to be suspected to be a ruthless slime bag but it is another thing to be proven to be one. For example, if a slew of negative innuendos suddenly appear concerning Mr. McConnell's next likely opponent, what will be the first thing that comes to everyone's mind? His campaign will be especially hamstrung if a a woman runs against him.

    Then, there is the "We waz bugged!" defense, made without any proof. If if turns out the recording was made by someone in the room (which is the most likely scenario) it will be a huge blow to Senator McConnell's credibility. I think that between the GOP primary (which he might not survive) or the general election, the guy is toast.

  • James M on April 10, 2013 8:08 AM:

    Whoops! (Why is it that whenever I have lots of typos my comments sails through CAPTCHA?)

    I meant to write:

    Mark: not so sure about that. Ever been sailing? When you are deciding when to tack (adjust course) you watch the surface of the water ahead of you. You can then find the point where the wind is shifting so you know the best place to start the tack.

  • Daniel Buck on April 10, 2013 8:14 AM:

    Talking Points Memo parses the question of the legalities of the matter, here,

    In other words, if an invited participant to the meeting made the recording, there might be no illegality. Perhaps McConnell himself was recording his meetings. Stranger things have happened, e.g., Nixon, LBJ. Dan