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Opinion: Winding Down A Long Career in Washington



By John F. Di Leo, Opinion Contributor

Senator Addison Mitchell McConnell, R-KY, was born on February 20, 1942, the same year as his former Senate colleague and current president, Joe Biden.

This makes him exactly nine months older than the current pretender-in-chief.

The comparisons don’t end there. Both went to law school and quickly entered government. In fact, Mitch McConnell has occupied high office in the federal government almost continually since the Nixon administration, so both men have been in government for half a century. Some might say that’s about enough; few would say that it isn’t.

That being said, the differences are stark. McConnell has been a standout in many ways throughout his career. While Biden was an unimpressive member of the Senate, the butt of jokes for most of his tenure, Mitch McConnell has always been regarded as one of the sharpest Senators. A talented parliamentarian, his mastery of the unusual processes of the U.S. Senate enabled a steady rise in that body. Entering the Senate in 1985, he became Republican whip in 2003 and leader of the Republican conference in 2007.

Senator McConnell has therefore been the top Republican in the U.S. Senate for 15 years, an indisputably impressive – some would say unwisely long – hold on power.

Senator McConnell has had his shortcomings. Most members of the Republican base would agree that he’s been too moderate on many issues. Most also fault him for taking the view that you should only call a vote on a bill if you can win it; with the narrow majorities the GOP has had in the 21st century, he has too often bottled up votes that had passed the House, rather than calling them for a vote that might fail. While this may convey strength in the eyes of a Senate parliamentarian, it denies future candidates the issues necessary for defeating Democrat incumbents. You can’t say “Vote for me, because Senator Dem voted wrong on these 30 bills,” if Senator Dem never in fact even had the opportunity to vote wrong on them.

That being said, however, Mitch McConnell has been heroic in other ways. In 2016, Barack Obama attempted to appoint a then-largely unknown federal judge from Chicago – Merrick Garland – to the U.S. Supreme Court. Senator McConnell used his parliamentary skills to hold off that nomination for a year, so that it would be vacant and available a year later, when a new Republican president, Donald Trump, would be able to make a respectable appointment.

Many called Garland a moderate back in 2016; somehow Mitch McConnell knew better, and he risked political capital by keeping this authoritarian extremist off the Supreme Court, almost singlehandedly.

Five years later, as the world started to get an idea of what a piece of work this Merrick Garland – now Attorney General in the Biden-Harris regime – turned out to be, many wondered how Senator McConnell could have seen through him, when all reports were that this uber-partisan leftist was just a moderate.

But Senator McConnell saw it when others did not, and he kept the guy off the high court. For this we should all be grateful.

But a different issue has arisen of late, an issue that could trump all the others.

Mitch McConnell is known for his decisiveness, and for his strong grip on the power of the Senate.

But he has recently begun to lose both.

While the medial diagnosis has not been shared, anyone can see that Senator McConnell is suffering. He’s had either seizures or mini-strokes, and possibly more issues as well, which have caused him to freeze up in meetings, even in his own press conferences.

The obvious answer is that he must step down from leadership. Not in 2032, not in 2026, not even next year.

He needs to step down from leadership now.

Frankly, he ought to retire, but he doesn’t dare, because while Kentucky law requires a governor to fill the remainder of a resigning U.S. Senator’s term with a replacement of the same party, Kentucky currently has a Democrat governor who thumbs his nose at the law. With the Senate balance in such a precarious position, the nation cannot risk that.

But if Senator McConnell keeps having embarrassing episodes as Minority Leader, the clamor to force him out will be irresistible. And that’s what the Left is counting on.

When Democrats can’t win an office in a normal election, even with all their money, media, and chicanery, they find ways to slide in anyway. They try to force or shame swing district incumbent Republicans into stepping down, so that they grab the seat with a corrupt appointment process or a favorably-timed special election.

The GOP cannot afford to have another Senate seat snatched away, not now, not with everything on the line.

There is only one solution. Senator McConnell is still healthy enough to serve as a US Senator; he’s just not healthy enough for the frequent press conferences and nonstop meetings of the Minority Leader.

He needs to retire from leadership and enter the relative retirement of just being a regular Senator, until Kentucky elects a governor they can trust to obey the law, or until a younger, healthier Republican can be elected to the seat.

There’s no shame in stepping back from leadership. He’s held the position for 15 years. There are others in the US Senate who would be wonderful in the role. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

And most importantly, it would take the cameras off Senator McConnell, and put him in a position where the occasional brief malady or even brief illness would not be such a detriment.

In recent years, Democrats have clearly demonstrated that they have no shame where such matters are concerned.

John Fetterman can mumble gibberish in a committee hearing and they compliment his eloquence. Joe Biden can walk off the stage, shake hands with empty air, even forget how to read lines on a teleprompter before skipping off to spend more time at the beach, and their acolyte media will cheer his work ethic.

Diane Feinstein has given her personal power of attorney to her family because she can’t be trusted to write a personal check, but the Democrats are happy to give her a say in controlling the lives of 330 million people.

The Republicans have never been this cavalier. They cannot afford to be.

Somebody has to have standards, and as long as the donkey refuses to, it falls to the elephant to set the example.

Senator McConnell, thank you for your service as party leader, but it’s time to prepare for retirement. Hold a press conference, invite your caucus to have a leadership vote, and enjoy your last months or years in your Senate seat safely and productively. You’ve earned it.

Copyright 2023 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer and transportation manager, writer, and actor. A one-time county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, he has been writing regularly for Illinois Review since 2009. Follow John F. Di Leo on Facebook, Twitter, Gettr or TruthSocial.

A collection of John’s Illinois Review articles about vote fraud, The Tales of Little Pavel, and his 2021 political satires about current events, Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes One and Two, are available, in either paperback or eBook, only on Amazon.

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