McConnell's got Trumpitis

By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Sen. Mitch McConnell has Trumpitis. 

The president can't resist tweet-slamming or trash-talking anybody who dares challenge him. That's Trumpitis. (Most politicians have the good sense not to diss their detractors personally, especially Fourth Estate critics.)

Anyway, Marshall Ward, a retired Murray school teacher, lit into the Senate majority leader in one of his Murray Ledger & Times columns. An unabashedly liberal Democrat, Ward relishes rattling local Republicans.

"History will not be so kind to Mitch," Ward poked. "He will be remembered as the main enabler of a president who is a pathological liar and autocrat."  

McConnell fired back in today's Murray paper. He claimed Ward's "column was filled with misleading statements and outright falsehoods." He said Ward "may prefer Nancy Pelosi's far-left vision for the Commonwealth and our country, but the overwhelming majority of Kentuckians do not."   

You'd think the Senate majority leader would be busy enough in Washington pushing the Trump-GOP agenda of enriching the already rich, abridging the rights of women, minorities, immigrants and LGBT citizens, punishing the poor and busting unions.

Apparently not, if he's taking time to smack down a part-time pundit who writes for a small town, county seat paper with a circulation of only about 6,000

No matter, Ward is on Cloud 10, the one above Nine.  "If you're accused of falsehoods and misleading statements, it probably means you're on to something," he said. "Mitch McConnell is following along in the footsteps of Donald Trump."

The senator's March 16 visit to Murray rankled Ward. First District Congressman James Comer, R-Tompkinsville, tagged along.

McConnell and Comer headlined the Calloway County GOP's annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner where they took turns at the mike demonizing Dems. (Murray is the Calloway County seat.)

McConnell entreated the faithful "to take out every Democratic candidate for statewide office" in November. Comer declared Democrats "a danger to America.” The loyalists ate it up.

But the slams were too much for Ward, who's a Kentucky Education Association retiree and president of the Calloway County Retired Teachers Association. He's not a Comer fan either. But  Ward focused his fire on the Senate's top Republican, who spent most of his speech and his column congratulating himself.

"I'm proud of the accomplishments we've [meaning I've] secured for Kentucky," McConnell said in his column. 

In his column, Ward predicted, "For decades to come, American citizens hurt by Republican budget cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid can thank McConnell."   

Ward ridiculed McConnell for comparing himself to Sen. Henry Clay, Kentucky's greatest solon (Sorry, Sen. McConnell). Clay went down in history as the "Great Pacificator" for helping broker three compromises to save the Union and stave off civil war. 

When Clay died in 1852, Abraham Lincoln eulogized him as "him my beau ideal of a statesman, the man for whom I fought all my humble life.” In his column, Ward imagined Lincoln admonishing McConnell, “Senator, I knew Henry Clay. Sir, you are NO Henry Clay.” 

Ward emailed his column to us, and I posted it.

Ward was no harder on McConnell than big-time liberal scribes like Charles Blow, Paul Krugman, Charlie Pierce and Katrina vanden Heuvel are. Maybe Ward vexed McConnell because the senator is unaccustomed to heresy from so deep in Trumpistan.

Murray is in the Jackson Purchase region of westernmost Kentucky where a whole slew of white folks deify The Donald and join Team Mitch every six years. (McConnell collected 58 percent of the Calloway vote in 2014; Trump won almost 65 percent of the vote in 2016.) 

Anyway, I'm curious about McConnell's Trumpitis. Must he burnish his Trumpian creds back home before 2020? Is he scared of a tea party primary foe a year from this May?

Some Bluegrass State Republicans of the political persuasion historian Richard Hofstadter meant when he coined the phrase "the paranoid style in American politics" still see McConnell as an Establishment GOP pol who's insufficiently Trumpist.  

But McConnell has backed the Trump position on issues 94.6 percent of the time, according to Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump: An updating tally of how often every member of the House and the Senate votes with or against the president.

"Partisans can write columns supporting dangerous, socialist ideas from Washington liberals, but I'll keep fighting for you in the Senate," McConnell concluded his rejoinder.

The senator's Trumpian response to Ward's column reminded me of an expression familiar to most old reporters like me: "You know you're over the target when you start taking flack." 

Ward's joyous. I'm jealous.

This just in: Ward has emailed Stephanie Penn, McConnell's press secretary: "I was honored and delighted that Mitch would take the time to challenge my Column 'Pyrrhic Victories'. In order to be a better writer and purveyor of facts, I would love to get a point by point rebuttal of my 'misleading statements and outright falsehoods'...."