Mitch McConnell isn’t the flashiest person on Capitol Hill. To put it mildly.

Chuck Schumer regularly beats McConnell to the TV cameras, and Nancy Pelosi makes grand pronouncements as if the Senate and McConnell don’t exist.

He’s been called a lot of names. I don’t even know where “Cocaine Mitch” came from, but its juxtaposition to McConnell’s somewhat dour public personality turns the obvious slur into a term of endearment.

Certainly, McConnell has been viewed by Republican insurgents as the embodiment of establishment Republicanism, and during the heyday of the Tea Party movement, McConnell was a frequent target.

But you have to hand it to the guy, he is a proven master tactician in the Senate, both in and out of power.

On December 22, 2010, I paid tribute to the out-of-power McConnell, In Praise of Mitch McConnell:

This is not the post you probably were expecting from me given my harsh — and as always prescient — criticism of Republicans in the lame duck session.  I was screaming “capitulation!” before screaming “capitulation!” was fashionable.

Notwithstanding the lame duck session, give Mitch McConnell some credit for the war which has been fought the past two years.

When Obama took office, Republicans had been routed in two consecutive elections.  With Democrats having an overwhelming majority in the House, and a near filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, there was not much the Republican leadership could do.

As I noted before, in my post Some of Our Finest Hours, a variety of players and people fought valiant political battles to slow down the Obama onslaught.  Those battles, particularly over Obamacare, created the landscape which led to victories in 2010.

But there was only so much McConnell could do….

Against overwhelming odds in which the defeat of the Obama agenda was not possible, the best that could be hoped for was to get Obama and the Democrats stuck in the mud, to have them advance to places they did not want to be, and to set up the stage for the electoral counterattack.

I’m not a military historian or tactician, but I do understand the concept of prepping the battlefield.  That is as true in politics as in war.

For his role in prepping the 2010 political battlefield, for getting Obama and Democrats stuck in the mud of their own creating, and for giving us the possibility of significant gains in the coming years, Mitch McConnell deserves our praise.

Later in the Obama years, after Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2014, McConnell prepped the landscape for a future (and as yet unnamed) Republican president by keeping down Obama’s judicial appointments.

Keeping the Scalia seat open despite the nomination of Merrick Garland was perhaps McConnell’s most significant achievement. That single move led to Mr. Justice Gorsuch filling his mentor’s seat and later to Mr. Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Those lower court judicial vacancies also allowed McConnell, despite unprecedented obstruction by Democrats in the Senate, to shepherd almost 200 federal court nominees to confirmation. Trump is reshaping the federal judiciary for a generation to come, but it was made possible by Mitch McConnell.

Nowhere has McConnell’s tactical skill been more apparent than in the Democrats’ impeachment effort. He let the House do its thing, which is right because he’s not the Speaker of the House. Because of his respect for the institution, he showed Pelosi more respect than she ever showed him. McConnell also must have known that left to their own devices Democrats in the House would screw things up in their venomous rush to impeach. And so they did.

McConnell stood strong in refusing to negotiate Senate trial procedures with Pelosi and in insisting on the Clinton model for Senate trial procedure. That Clinton procedure allowed the House Managers to fill the TV screens for days, but it also allowed Team Trump to make its case.

And in the end, McConnell kept enough Senate Republicans in line to prevent Adam Schiff and other Democrats from turning the Senate into a circus as they had in the House.

Whatever criticism one might have about McConnell being an insider and establishment, he got the job done.

So this is another post in praise of Mitch McConnell.

 

 
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