It happened on December 12, in an interview with Sean Hannity, Fox star and undisputed fool of President Trump. Hannity spoke with Mitch McConnell, the man who has served as a Republican leader in Senate history for more years, about the party’s offensive to fill federal courts with conservative judges during Trump’s presidency.
“I was surprised that former President Obama left so many vacancies and did not try to place anyone in those positions,” Hannity said.
“I’ll tell you why: I was in charge of what we did during the last two years of the Obama Administration,” McConnell replied.
Then, the 77-year-old Republican legislator laughed. Looking at the camera, a laugh in three stages, of perfect rhythm: “Hahahaha. Haha. LOL”. And that evil laugh, immediately viralized in social networks, was not only exceptional because McConnell’s expressionlessness is legendary in Washington. It was exceptional because of the naturalness and lightness with which the leader of the majority of the Senate openly admitted to blocking, in the name of his partisan interests, the normal development of the sacrosanct principle of the separation of powers.
His pulse did not tremble as he held a seat of the Supreme Court vacant for 11 months. Nor when changing, already with a Republican in the White House, twice the Senate rules to allow a record of confirmations of conservative judges. Contributing decisively to plunging it into virtual legislative inaction, it has reduced the great deliberative body to a factory for approving appointments of the president. During his five years as leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, two during the Obama presidency and three during Trump’s, McConnell has turned the blockade into an art. Now, when he takes the controls of impeachmentNo one will be surprised by his maneuvers to try to reduce the extraordinary constitutional process to a mere bump in the road to a second term of Trump.
“The Senate’s duty is clear,” McConnell said in December, once approved in the lower house on impeachment Trump, for charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, which will be tried in the Senate as of next Tuesday to decide on his removal. “Only one result will preserve the essential precedents instead of breaking them apart in an attack of partisan rage, because a party still cannot accept the election of the American people in 2016.”
He did accept it. Mind you: reluctantly. It took a long time to resign himself to the taking of the party to which he has dedicated his entire adult life for an iconoclast like Donald Trump. He did not do so until May 2016, when there was no one left to dispute the nomination. And the statement in which he announced his support was, at least, not very enthusiastic: “I have pledged to support the nominee elected by Republican voters,” he wrote.
But it turns out that, over time, they have built an unlikely synergy of a basically transactional and mutually beneficial nature. “I think that, although we are quite different in every way you can imagine, we have done a good team work to achieve as much as we can,” McConnell summed up in an interview with The New York Times.
His own relationship with Trump is one of the things that McConnell, who also appears for re-election in November, must keep in mind in the process. With any gesture that implies a distancing from the official doctrine of the “witch hunt”, you would risk a rapa dust of the president who would alienate his Republican voters from Kentucky, a state he has represented in the upper house for 35 years. The process, in short, will test McConnell’s ability to navigate the savage currents of a trial to the president in the election year and, at the same time, not compromise the honorability of the institution that was his vital goal long before he entered in it in 1985.
Because, as with many senators, the seat is the starting point for a race to the White House, for McConnell the upper house is the end in itself. His aspiration, since always, was to become part of that very small elite of operators of the great engine room of the State. When he did the interviews to enter law school, according to his authorized biography (Republican leader, from John David Dyche), a professor wrote, without a doubt, that McConnell “will be a United States senator.” A scholar of American political history, the paradox is that one of the people who has done the most to polarize the institution is, at the same time, one of its greatest defenders.
“It’s a difficult time for our country, but this is precisely the kind of moment for which the founders created the Senate,” McConnell said Wednesday. “I trust that this institution can rise above short-term and partisan fever and serve the best long-term interests of our nation. We can do it, and we must do it. ”
McConnell knows he has the votes to exonerate Trump. But he does not want the Senate trial to become the partisan spectacle that both the process in the lower house and the prolegomena of the trial itself that begins on Tuesday have offered. He wants a quick trial, which guarantees the president’s exoneration, but does not compromise the dignity of the institution. And neither is your own.