The PJ Tatler

McConnell Muddles the Message

As inspirational leaders go, Sen. Mitch McConnell is somewhere between a paper-pushing functionary and a dish rag. He is a very smart political operator who can skillfully use the Senate’s rules to advantage, but Knute Rockne, he is not. On Monday, Sen. McConnell spoke to a group of hospital workers in Kentucky and had the opportunity as the Republican leader in the Senate to frame the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold ObamaCare in a way that would inspire the base and rally for repealing ObamaCare. In fact, as one of the top Republicans in the country, motivating the party’s base is an important part of McConnell’s job. So how did he do?

He said some of the right things, including declaring that ObamaCare is hurting the economy and that he still intends to repeal it. He has been consistent on that and deserves credit. But the sound bite that’s getting the most play from Monday is this one.

“If you thought it was a good idea for the federal government to go in this direction, I’d say the odds are still on your side,” McConnell told workers at Hardin Memorial Hospital, “because it’s a lot harder to undo something than it is to stop it in the first place.”

Rah rah!

If upon reading that you suspect that McConnell is holding a curled up white flag behind his back, you’re not crazy and you’re not alone. That quote is generating headlines like “Even with repeal, ‘Obamacare’ will be hard to unwind, McConnell says” and “McConnell: Repealing Obamacare is a Long Shot.”

Hoo rah!

I suppose he could be trying to motivate voters to get out and elect more Republicans to the Senate to make the long shot shorter, but he doesn’t say that clearly enough, or at least he is not being quoted saying it. He should make sure such a quote gets top billing. Republicans already own the House thanks to ObamaCare and only need a few victories to capture the Senate in November. Now that ObamaCare is ObamaTax (unless you ask the Romney campaign, anyway) it will only take 51 Senate votes to repeal it. The House will vote to repeal it on July 11 unless something dramatic and unforeseen happens, so that’s just about in the bank. Several Democrats will probably vote with the Republicans to repeal, making that case bipartisan (Update: One just did). Really bipartisan, not Obama’s version of bipartisan. Add to all that, that several vulnerable Senate Democrats can be pushed and prodded into repeal and the Republican leaders — if there are any — could build a case, take it to the people and build a national wave toward repeal.

But they’re not doing that. They’re doling out counterproductive quotes that give off an air of surrender. We need U.S. Grants or Douglas MacArthurs, but we’re getting George McClellans. They don’t know how to press an advantage against a wounded opponent.

This won’t do. Republicans including McConnell need to get their act together or they will lose in November, and they will deserve it. The problem with that is, the country probably cannot sustain four more years of Emperor Barack. So a Republican win followed by repeal is vital.