Mitch McConnell keeps saying he’s laser-focused on battling Joe Biden and winning in 2022.
Donald Trump is largely fixated on 2020, judging by the blistering statements he now issues nearly every day.
Asked about the Liz Cheney controversy, the Senate minority leader told reporters in Kentucky: “One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration. I think the best way to look at what this new administration is: The president may have won the nomination, but Bernie Sanders won the argument.”
Good line on Bernie, though “stopping this new administration” is reminiscent of the flak McConnell took more than a decade ago, when he proclaimed that his top priority was making Barack Obama a one-term president.
What’s more telling is what McConnell didn’t do, which is utter any words that would draw him into the House leadership fight.
The former president, by contrast, is finding it hard to take his eyes off the rear-view mirror. He declared in his latest missive yesterday:
“The Fake News Media, working in close conjunction with Big Tech and the Radical Left Democrats, is doing everything they can to perpetuate the term ‘The Big Lie’ when speaking of 2020 Presidential Election Fraud.” This, he said, “is “an even greater Hoax than Russia. Russia, Russia, Mueller, Mueller, Mueller, Impeachment Hoax #1, Impeachment Hoax #2, or any of the other many scams the Democrats pulled!”
That is Trump connecting a whole lot of dots, from journalists to Zuckerberg to the onetime special counsel, in painting himself as the victim of malevolent forces. The problem, aside from his unproven claims about the election, is that he’s doing anything but moving on. And that’s what most Republican lawmakers say they want to do, to train their fire on the Biden administration and winning back the House (which, based on midterm patterns, gerrymandering and Democratic retirements, they have an excellent chance of doing).
All this underscores why Cheney’s all-but-definite ouster from her third-ranking House leadership post is essentially a sideshow.
Media reports say Kevin McCarthy’s troops want to boot Cheney not because she voted to impeach Trump but because she won’t stop talking about the last election.
But many of these same Republicans stay silent as Trump keeps talking about the last election. Isn’t he at least as responsible for the fact that an election that ended six months ago is constantly in the forefront of the news? By my reckoning, many, though not all, of Cheney’s blasts are responding to the 45th president, who said again this week that she’s a “warmonger” who isn’t much liked back home.
In a Washington Post op-ed this week, Cheney responded once again and refused to back down:
“In public statements again this week, former president Donald Trump has repeated his claims that the 2020 election was a fraud and was stolen. His message: I am still the rightful president, and President Biden is illegitimate. Trump repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6…
“The question before us now is whether we will join Trump’s crusade to delegitimize and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have.”
She included a shot at McCarthy for having said in January that “the president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” Now, says Cheney, “McCarthy has changed his story.”
Some shots at the former vice president’s daughter for being too ornery are making their way into the coverage. That includes Politico citing two unnamed GOP lawmakers in saying “Cheney is hurting the electoral prospects of the anti-Trumpers in the conference, who are being asked about her, rather than Biden, when they return home to their districts.”
But once the Cheney melodrama dies down, Republican politicians will still face a stark choice: 2020 or 2022?
And even those who want to pivot away from the bitterness and violence of the post-election period will face the constant reminders by Donald Trump, who doesn’t need Facebook to keep beating that drum.