Butt out of Ne­braska GOP pri­mary con­test, Mitch

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY CHARLES HURT

Granted, he lacks the warmth of Darth Vader or the charm of Jabba the Hutt. But Mitch McCon­nell, I have al­ways thought, was a prin­ci­pled force for good in an evil, evil place.

Which is why it is so shock­ing to see the Se­nate mi­nor­ity leader knee-deep in the ma­nure of slan­der­ous lies be­ing flung at the most con­ser­va­tive, most prin­ci­pled and most electable can­di­date run­ning in a pri­mary a thou­sand miles away from his home state of Ken­tucky.

I have ad­mired Mr. McCon­nell ever since he took the very lonely and un­pop­u­lar — yet con­sti­tu­tion­ally scrupu­lous — stand against so-called cam­paign-fi­nance “re­form.” Sen. John McCain, the Repub­li­can fail­ure from Ari­zona who gave us Pres­i­dent Obama, sup­ported these “re­forms” be­cause his only con­stituents are the Demo­cratic me­dia es­tab­lish­ment and his own ego.

Also, hav­ing ut­terly dis­graced him­self and dis­hon­ored his fam­ily’s good name by jump­ing into bed with the Keat­ing Five and cost­ing tax­pay­ers bil­lions of dol­lars bail­ing out a cor­rupted in­dus­try, Mr. McCain had to spend the rest of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer pre­tend­ing to be clean, eth­i­cal and above bribery. They call it “re­brand­ing” around here.

When these “re­forms” soon proved to be lit­tle more than an in­cum­bent-pro­tec­tion pro­gram, they be­came very pop­u­lar among the nest of politi­cians in of­fice at that time. Mr. McCon­nell was among the lonely few who stood up to Mr. McCain and his ego­tis­ti­cal cam­paign to re­store his rep­u­ta­tion by shred­ding the First Amend­ment.

In ad­di­tion, Mr. McCon­nell has ad­mirably led the no­to­ri­ously un­lead­able Se­nate Repub­li­can mi­nor­ity through some pretty dark days. His un­blink­ing stare and pale, Skele­tor vis­age have al­ways in­spired me to think that be­hind the mask is a ruth­less and bril­liant tac­ti­cian, ever cal­cu­lat­ing and al­ways in con­trol — a good thing for con­ser­va­tives to have in their Se­nate leader.

For these and other rea­sons, I have never un­der­stood the froth­ing blood­lust among so many good con­ser­va­tives to see Mr. McCon­nell de­feated in his Ken­tucky pri­mary later this month. But I’m not so sure any more. Now roundly loathed by tea par­ty­ers na­tion­wide as an un­der­handed in­sider, Mr. McCon­nell has his hands full with a chal­lenge for his own party’s nom­i­na­tion. Then he must win re-elec­tion to the Se­nate at a time when his fa­vor­able rat­ings are dan­ger­ously low. And if he wants to go from be­ing a nearly pow­er­less mi­nor­ity leader to a ma­jor­ity leader who can ac­tu­ally stop the Obama agenda, he and Repub­li­cans need to pick up six seats held by Democrats.

Sounds like a pretty full plate, even for a bril­liant and de­ter­mined tac­ti­cian like Mr. McCon­nell.

So why is it that he would be so ob­sessed with mucking up a Ne­braska pri­mary race where by all ac­counts the best, most con­ser­va­tive and most electable Repub­li­can ap­pears on the verge of win­ning? Polls show Ben Sasse close to grasp­ing the nom­i­na­tion af­ter run­ning a clean, pos­i­tive cam­paign lay­ing out his vi­sion for dis­man­tling Oba­macare.

From early on, Mr. McCon­nell has been squarely be­hind Ne­braska politi­cian Shane Os­born, who has run a re­lent­lessly neg­a­tive and dis­hon­est cam­paign. In an at­tempt to smear Mr. Sasse, Mr. Os­born’s cam­paign has spun nu­mer­ous fan­tasies about how Mr. Sasse doesn’t re­ally want to re­peal Oba­macare. Re­ally?

Then re­porters at The Omaha WorldHer­ald un­cov­ered a bomb­shell. Mr. Os­born, a Navy veteran, con­spired with some bud­dies in the Pen­tagon to forge a doc­u­ment on Navy let­ter­head in an effort to help out his po­lit­i­cal cam­paign. The forged doc­u­ment, sum­ma­riz­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, was dis­trib­uted to re­porters.

Run­ning a ter­ri­ble and nasty cam­paign ap­par­ently doesn’t bother Mr. McCon­nell. He or­dered the D.C. Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment to get be­hind Mr. Os­born. Now a Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Com­mit­tee formed by ex-McCon­nell staffers to ad­vance Mr. McCon­nell’s in­ter­ests has got­ten in on the ly­ing game.

It is hard to un­der­stand ex­actly why a bril­liant tac­ti­cian like Mr. McCon­nell would be so deeply in­volved in this cam­paign. Does Mr. McCon­nell feel threat­ened by Mr. Sasse? Does he se­cretly hate con­ser­va­tives? Is he shilling for Oba­macare?

What­ever the rea­son, when the only prin­ci­ples you stand for any­more are your own sur­vival or some petty griev­ance, then your prin­ci­ples no longer have any­thing to do with the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Charles Hurt can be reached at charleshurt@live.com and on Twit­ter @charleshurt.

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