Nothing Mitch McConnell does is without a significant amount of thinking and strategy behind it. It’s why he’s in his seventh term representing Kentucky in the Senate – and why he has been the chamber’s leading Republican for more than a decade.
So when McConnell released a statement Monday night condemning Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, you can bet there was a plan there.
“Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country,” McConnell said of the conspiracy-loving Greene. “Somebody who’s suggested that perhaps no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11, that horrifying school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s airplane is not living in reality. This has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the robust debates on substance that can strengthen our party.”
Which, well, yeah. Greene’s views – she’s publicly expressed support for the QAnon movement, made Islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments and agreed with the idea of executing Democratic leaders, among many other things – are noxious and have no business enjoying the cover of one of the two major parties in this country.
But that’s not new. Ever since she emerged as a leading candidate for the strongly Republican 14th district last summer, it’s been abundantly clear that Greene is close to the worst iteration of the ugly politics condoned by ex-President Donald Trump. And she did nothing to hide that fact. Quite the opposite! She has embraced all of these controversies – caused by her toxic views – as evidence that she is the antidote to political correctness, or something.
And yet, McConnell hasn’t uttered a single word about her until Monday night. Which is not a coincidence.
See, McConnell knows that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) is set to meet with Greene this week to talk about her views – and, likely, to dole out some sort of punishment. According to Politico, McCarthy remains undecided about the best way to deal with Greene – and whether stripping her of committee assignments, for example, for comments she made prior to coming to Congress would set a dangerous precedent.
McConnell’s comments are designed to push McCarthy right off the fence on which he is currently sitting. It’s aimed at forcing McCarthy’s hand. It’s McConnell saying, essentially: This is not what the Republican Party is going to be in the future – and it stops now.
(Sidebar: If you have ANY doubt of what McConnell is doing, it’s worth noting that just before he put out his statement on Greene, he released to CNN a statement in support of embattled Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney following her vote to impeach Trump. And remember, there are no coincidences in politics.)
While McConnell is clearly trying to put his thumb on the scale for the Cheney version of the Republican Party versus the Greene version, let’s not be too quick to praise his timing here.
As I noted above, McConnell didn’t condemn Greene when she emerged as the Republican nominee in the summer of 2020 nor did he say anything when she was elected in November. McConnell allies will argue that he chose this moment to speak out because it carries the most weight due to the pending McCarthy-Greene meeting.
But it’s also worth noting that McConnell chose to speak out as even some of the more Trump-y elements within the GOP are turning on Greene – suggesting that she is a distraction that needs to be dealt with in order to effectively make the case against President Joe Biden and the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
McConnell, therefore, is less out on a limb than he might appear to be. There’s been sufficient outrage over Greene’s comments across the party that he can come in as a sort of closer – trying to button up the issue once and for all in the way he wants.
Now the question is whether McCarthy will take the hint from McConnell and punish Greene to the most severe extent he can.