Which Mitch McConnell was it that appeared before the Danville Chamber of Commerce last week?
Was it the longest serving U.S. senator in Kentucky's history, the leader of his party, the Republican rainmaker, the man who can bring our federal legislative process to a grinding halt, over and over?
Didn't sound like it. Sounded like poor citizen McConnell, as beleaguered by the mess in Washington as any hapless American.
McConnell hopes President Barack Obama's deficit commission "won't be just another aimless commission that makes a report that nobody pays attention to."
Since the commission will make recommendations to Congress, presumably McConnell will have some say on whether anyone pays attention and takes action.
But, who knows? After 25 years in the Senate, many of them in leadership, he fretted in Danville that he could only hope the commission will "come up with a way to deal with our large unfunded mandate problem: Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid."
Gee, how did those pesky unfunded mandates crop up when he wasn't watching?
But nothing perplexes like McConnell's disingenuous remark that, "the only instruction I'm going to give them is that I think the problem is that we're spending too much, not that we're taxing too little."
Gone is the subtle thinker, the brilliant tactician to be replaced by "Main Street Mitch" who yearns for a simple ole belt-tightening answer to the federal deficit.
It's a false choice.
Neither the commission, the president nor the Congress can pick one strategy — spend less or tax more — out of the hat and run with it and have any hope of a solution.
It will take both, and everyone who is really paying attention, including McConnell, knows that.
Taxes are now lower for almost all Americans than they were during the great Republican presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, both of whom McConnell served under in the Senate.
It was after the deep tax cuts by George W. Bush that the U.S. budget fell deeply out of balance, giving up the surplus left by (Democratic) President Bill Clinton to lead us into deficit land.
Which raises the specter of yet another Mitch McConnell: the proponent of generational warfare.
Everyone knows that most of us are willing to raise taxes on someone else. Obama plays to this sentiment by suggesting, also disingenuously, that the deficit can be solved by taxing only people who make more than $250,000 a year.
That gets high approval in polls, since the majority of taxpayers don't make that much.
However, McConnell takes it a step farther, saying no one should pay more taxes.
Debts don't magically disappear. Someday Americans will have to pay the bills.
McConnell's short-term political gain by railing against taxes today, if successful, will come at the cost of pushing our debt onto future generations.