Kentucky-Bribed Statesman: Mitch McConnell Unmasked

Anthony Weiner recently lamented that "if the internet didn't exist," he'd be the mayor of New York.  In other words, if John Q. Public weren't so privy to the facts, and so readily able to investigate those facts and exchange opinions about them online, politicians could more easily manipulate their political images and determine the outcome of elections.

Likewise, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is now feeling the stinging disapproval of an informed public that he may not have felt twenty years ago.  Like the grand reveal at the end a Scooby-Doo episode, McConnell the "fiscally conservative" Senate leader has been unmasked in the last month's proceedings and identified as what he really is -- a career politician who'd sell his constituents and American taxpayers down the river for a buck (or in this case, a couple billion bucks).  And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for meddling Matt Drudge and the like.

In late September, Mitch McConnell used his lofty position in the Republican minority to stand against Senate conservatives like Ted Cruz and fellow Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.  He made and underhanded effort to block a House bill which would fund the government and raise the debt ceiling in exchange for defunding ObamaCare.  Knowing that the Senate would not have the 60 votes necessary to amend the House bill to fund ObamaCare, he and fellow collaborators voted in favor of a cloture vote which would allow Harry Reid and Senate Democrats to amend the bill with an easily attainable straight majority vote.  Then, having cleared the Senate Democrats' path to funding ObamaCare, he cast a show vote against the amended spending bill, which included the funding of ObamaCare, hoping it would absolve him of any blame.

We noticed it.  In fact, it was insulting and infuriating that McConnell took such care to conceal the betrayal of his stated conviction to oppose ObamaCare.  Now, his efforts to fund ObamaCare have culminated in what's being described as the "Kentucky Kickback" by the Senate Conservatives Fund.  "In exchange for funding ObamaCare and raising the debt limit," the group says, "Mitch McConnell has secured a $2 billion earmark" to a pet project in his home state of Kentucky.

Of course, in a further insult to our intelligence, McConnell is again trying to shirk any responsibility for billions in new taxpayer liability which will uniquely benefit his state.  The language, his office reminds reporters, was introduced by Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and the provision will raise the spending limit of Kentucky's Olmsted Lock and Dam project from $775 million to $2.9 billion. 

The project has been underway with that $775-million cap for a quarter-century.  After "decades of delays, engineering mistakes, and cost overruns," it might be difficult to get taxpayers to agree to tripling down on the previous failures.  That's what makes this kind of move so incredibly sneaky and effective in Washington.  If it's allocated in pork, attached to a bill that will avert "potential default" by the American government, who will complain?

What's more, it's not even being presented as "spending."  The logic is similar to Obama's declaration from last month that "raising the debt ceiling does not increase the debt."  It's not the same as cashing a check for $2 billion, sure.  But the outcome is the same, because it's precisely the same as giving the obviously inept overseers in Kentucky a $2-billion credit card.  And just as it would be unwise for a parent give that credit card to a spendthrift teenager who doesn't know the value of the money backing it, it is equally unwise to give that credit card to a contractor who has proven himself incapable of doing the job he's been contracted to do.  Because the money is not his, and he does not respect the value of it, he will simply spend up to whatever limit he's given. 

Taxpayers rightfully wouldn't go for that.  Hence the deceptive measures to secure the financing.

Even John McCain, who also garnered conservative ire by standing against Senate conservatives last month, has pilloried McConnell for the betrayal of principle.  "These people are like alcoholics.  They can't resist taking a drink," McCain said.  "It's absolutely ridiculous.  It should have gone through the normal legislative process."

While a good "pot and kettle" analogy could probably be drawn here, McCain's dissent is ultimately instructive of America's predicament.  McCain could just as easily been talking about any Democrat here, referencing any of the innumerable earmarks buried in ObamaCare.  He could be talking about the $100 million of the Louisiana Purchase, which garnered Democrat Mary Landrieu's vote for ObamaCare, or the $100-million "University Hospital Heist" (my own coinage) which bought Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd's vote, or the $45-million "Cornhusker Kickback," which paid for Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson's vote. 

The lesson is that there is nary a difference between the GOP establishment and tax-and-spend Democrats.  If anything, we can and should be more critical of the GOP for betraying the conservative principles they advocated to get elected in the first place.  Democrats may have the luxury of a largely ignorant constituency who often vote on the strength of government handouts or a misguided self-righteousness in believing that government will be charitable in their stead.  (Though as Ben Nelson and Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak knew immediately upon their betrayal of their constituents, moderate Democrats can be fickle masters, too).  Republicans, however, certainly do not have that luxury.  Conservatives and independents are watching like hawks, and there are two things that we are watching for in particular: conviction to defend core principles, and "Washington as usual" politics.  Suffice it to say, we abhor the latter.

To believe that McConnell had nothing to do with this kickback takes a leap of faith and a disregard of all political logic.  But he has reached the end of his tether in terms of credibility, and conservatives rightfully despise his actions over these last few weeks.  They have exposed him, and as such, I predict he will be toppled from his lofty position in 2014.  Which may, for the good of all American taxpayers, signal a changing of the guard in the GOP.

William Sullivan blogs at and can be followed on Twitter.