There’s no love lost for outside conservative groups in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s new memoir, which hits bookshelves next week.
The Kentucky Republican, always a political strategist, makes the case in The Long Game that he could have ascended to majority leader earlier if not for forces like the Senate Conservatives Fund.
“As more dollars from patriotic Americans rolled in, SCF staff would direct those resources exclusively toward campaigning against the most electable Republicans from the comfort of their townhome on Capitol Hill,” McConnell writes, according to excerpts posted by Google Books.
“(R)eminiscent of what happened in 2010 in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada, thanks to groups like SCF, we threw away two seats with unelectable candidates, this time in Missouri and Indiana,” McConnell says of what played out in 2012, when Republicans ended up nominating Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, respectively.
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The SCF endorsed Matt Bevin, who is now Kentucky’s governor, for Senate over McConnell in his 2014 re-election bid.
The Long Game dedicates time to revisiting the 2014 Senate primary and general election, though in the excerpts posted ahead of the May 31 publication date much of the focus is on Bevin.
McConnell’s trusted staff and advisers are named throughout, particularly Josh Holmes, whom McConnell described as “overseeing things” during the 2014 primary.
McConnell also quotes from what Holmes told The New York Times at the beginning of November 2013 about what was coming.
“SCF has been wandering around the country destroying the Republican Party like a drunk who tears up every bar they walk into,” Holmes said in that story. “The difference this cycle is that they strolled into Mitch McConnell’s bar and he doesn’t throw you out, he locks the door.”
The McConnell operation had tried to warn Bevin against the buzzsaw that he would face, to no avail.
“He had no political experience, no familiarity with running for office, and no idea what he was walking into,” writes McConnell.
“(T)he day he announced, we were on the air with an ad defining him as Bailout Bevin. He’d received a government loan to help rebuild his family’s bell factory in Connecticut, which had been destroyed by a fire, and had written to his clients that he had supported TARP,” McConnell writes. “After he criticized me for my role in passing TARP — a role I was proud of given the cost of not acting — I couldn’t allow the hypocrisy.”
The Troubled Asset Relief Program, frequently derided by critics as a bailout for Wall Street banks, initially authorized some $700 billion to purchase illiquid assets like troubled mortgage-backed securities in an effort to avert a financial collapse.
McConnell writes that he told campaign staff to focus on a goal of winning each and every one of the 120 counties in Kentucky, and to avoid distractions.
“I had planned to follow that advice myself,” McConnell writes. “And then, in October of 2013, a few rogue Republicans decided to the shut down the government.”
In a section of the book that might have been far more interesting given the publication date had a supporter of the standoff like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, become his party’s presumptive nominee for president, McConnell recalls the argument against taking a hard line on defunding Obamacare in the fall of 2013.
The majority leader uses one of his most-often-repeated expressions in the process.
“As we say in Kentucky, ‘There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.’ That lesson was lost here because the first kick had come in 1995 when Republicans, under Newt Gingrich, shut down the government for twenty-seven days over federal spending levels,” writes McConnell. “And all that achieved was injuring our economy, inconveniencing Americans, and hurting our party.”
He also writes about the police chase from the gates of the White House to the Capitol complex on the third day of the 2013 shutdown, which ended with a woman named Miriam Carey being shot and killed by Capitol Police.
“We were asking law enforcement in our capital to protect us, when we were going little to protect them. And I had had enough,” McConnell wrote of his thoughts after the Carey incident.
There’s plenty more in the book, which publishing house Penguin RandomHouse describes as “the candid, behind-the-scenes memoir of a man famous for his discretion. For more than three decades, McConnell has worked steadily to advance conservative values, including limited government, individual liberty, fiscal prudence, and a strong national defense.”
McConnell does not always talk about his childhood, growing up in Alabama and battling to overcome polio, nor does he talk much of his personal life, which might well make for the most interesting parts of the memoir for close observers of the Republican from Kentucky.
For instance, in an excerpt about McConnell’s views on then-Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to allow judicial nominees to be confirmed with fewer votes, McConnell gives a window into what he did after the day was done.
He had margaritas with his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
“It was utterly depressing to watch what Harry Reid had done to the Senate,” McConnell writes. “The day he’d invoked the nuclear option, Elaine called and asked if I wanted to meet for a late dinner at La Loma. She knew how upset I would be, and when I arrived at the restaurant, she was there waiting for me at a table in the back, my margarita ready.”
La Loma, a Mexican restaurant on the north side of Capitol Hill near the Heritage Foundation building where Chao has been a distinguished fellow, has been a favorite of the couple, dating to the chicken enchiladas they shared during their courtship.