We've seen this sort of incapacity in Feinstein, a 90-year old Democrat whose infirmities should require her to retire from office, and in Democrat Sen. John Fetterman, who cannot plausibly serve in his post-stroke condition, as well in Joe Biden himself, who occupies the White House with many signs of senility. But now we see it in the GOP, one of whose top leaders, McConnell, cannot with any vigor deliver a speech.
Mitch McConnell - age 81
Dianne Feinstein - age 90
Grace Napolitano - age 87
Bill Pascrell - age 86
Maxine Waters - age 85
Steny Hoyer - age 84
Nanci Pelosi - age 83
Jim Clyburn - age 83
Danny Davis - age 81
McConnell is not just excessively old, he's also had significant health challenges, having been the victim of a fall and a concussion in recent months. Someone with that condition seems to be ripe to retire.
Yet like so much of what we see in among the Democrats, where this problem is far more widespread, McConnell refuses to leave office. It seems that the energy needed to get elected from office and the rewards of power, if not the "untouchability" of being in power seems to be its own incentive to never leave office. In the cases of some of these characters, such as that of Biden himself, it serves as a shield from corruption, and McConnell has been accused of conflicts of interest himself owing to too much time in power. In recent days, McConnell's stated that he's against taking impeachment action against Biden, despite the evidence of his unprecedented corruption, which sounds though he doesn't want too much poking into political corruption at all.
Now, much of the GOP says that McConnell's incident on the podium is no big deal.
Politico quotes a string of six Republicans under the sensationalist headline of "McConnell episode alarms Senate GOP" -- all of whom say they are ... not alarmed, as well as McConnell:
Mitch McConnell’s sudden freeze during a Wednesday afternoon press conference jolted the Senate Republican Conference, eliciting hopes from allies, detractors that he will fully recover from any health issues.
And President Joe Biden even called his old senatorial colleague to check on him.
“I told him I got sandbagged,” McConnell said, a reference to Biden’s public fall over a sandbag earlier this year. “I’m fine. I’m fine, that’s the important part. Got to watch those sandbags.”
Reality check: There were no sandbags. There was just obvious infirmity owing to McConnell's advanced age and previous health issues.
Sens. Ted Cruz, John Kennedy, Joni Ernst, John Cornyn, and John Barrasso (who gently led the seized-up McConnell away from the podium) as well as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, all say in various ways, nothing to see here, move along, this will pass.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy met with McConnell later on Wednesday afternoon. Asked if he was concerned about McConnell’s health, he replied: “No, and this was after the incident.” Cruz said that he has seen “no indication” internally that McConnell is not able to perform all his job duties.
Nothing to see here, nothing to worry about.
Yet this is unlikely to be the average voter's view, given that someone at that advanced an age, with that many health incidents, is very likely to have another one before his term of office is over, potentially throwing his Senate seat into the hands of the opposition party.
McConnell himself, who is no dummy, seems to understand that such a thing could happen -- and being a smart politician, he has already taken airtight steps to ensure that the GOP will hold onto his seat even if he is completely incapacitated or drops dead, based on this series of actions in his home state of Kentucky.
The Republican-run Kentucky legislature on Monday easily overrode [Democrat] Gov. Andy Beshear's veto of a notable bill that restricts his ability to fill any vacancies that arise if one of the state's U.S. senators dies or leaves office early.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the commonwealth's powerful senior senator, threw his support behind Senate Bill 228. That sparked speculation that the 79-year-old statesman, who just got reelected last fall, might be eyeing the exits.
However, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, SB 228's lead sponsor, has said the longtime senator plans to stick around and McConnell himself has never given any public indication he doesn't plan to serve out his new six-year term.
Historically, Kentucky's governor has been able to choose anyone — of any political party — to fill in temporarily if a vacancy pops up in the Senate, whether that happens by the senator's choice, expulsion or death.
It also makes them select that person from a list of three names provided by the executive committee of the departing senator's state party.
It even contains a sidebar saying that this was McConnell's idea. So it's unlikely that the GOP would lose a seat should McConnell not be able to serve out his term, which is a good thing for the GOP because if they did lose one, they may not be able to get it back, given the rigging going on among Democrats in states that have turned solid blue.
All the same, it raises questions, now that we see McConnell breaking down.
Should the GOP be a party perceived as no different from its gerontocratic counterparty beset as it is with jurassic clingers to power?
Or should it take the lead on term limits, ensuring that entrenchment in office is not an incentive to clinging to power beyond one's natural facilities? We know what we are seeing with McConnell, and we know that the public is concerned, given the significant voter concern reported by pollsters for Biden's age and acuity in office.
The GOP should not make this a bipartisan issue, this should be the Democrats' problem, and the voters should be able to clearly conclude that that is the party that cannot reform itself. For that sake, McConnell should make plans to retire from office, and the GOP leaderships should frankly push him towards that, because clearly his health is on the wane and he doesn't need to take either himself or his party to Dianne Feinstein and Joe Biden levels.