This USA Today article about McConnell’s health issues is a good reminder that Rand Paul is unquestionably one of the biggest a&$holes in American politics in a way that entirely transcends politics or ideology. As Thomas Hobbes might have put it, the guy is nasty, brutish and short. But the article slips in this subtly devastating comment about Sen. Josh Hawley’s concerns about McConnell’s episodes. Hawley, the paper notes, “hopes the minority leader’s health is not a distraction for Republicans ahead of the 2024 elections, adding that the episodes make it difficult to criticize Biden for his age.”
That about captures the consequence of this issue.
With the comedy and politics out of the way, let me share a few thoughts about McConnell’s health issues themselves.
I’ve discussed this with numerous TPM Reader/doctors over recent weeks, people with various relevant areas of expertise: trauma specialists, neurologists etc. I’m not going to get into the specifics of their informed speculations since, as they would note, they haven’t examined McConnell. But they can rule in and rule out certain things based on what we’ve seen. The truth is there are many possibilities that are downstream from the fact that McConnell is a man in his 80s who suffered a severe concussion and is by definition still recovering from that trauma. My general takeaway from these conversations is that there’s a good chance that whatever is causing McConnell’s issues won’t affect him beyond these occasional episodes. There’s a good chance they’re stable, rather than an early sign of some rapid deterioration. In practice, they’re likely an optics issue more than anything.
But this gets to a more general point. Senate minority leader just isn’t a particularly mission critical job. To the extent McConnell isn’t up to fighting form — and there’s certainly a reasonable question about that — it’s largely coming out of the hide of his GOP Senate caucus colleagues. Is he able to strategize for them as good as he might? Can he make press comments well enough? No one’s calling Mitch McConnell at 3 AM to make a snap decision about a national security crisis.
This isn’t me pooh-poohing the issue. I’m trying to put it into some context. If I were a Republican senator, especially one up for reelection in 2024 I might well be saying it’s time for Mitch to step aside. Or maybe I still think he’s better at the job than the other contenders, even with these issues. I don’t know. Since I’m not a Republican senator I’m not spending a lot of time thinking about it.
I guess what I’m saying is that it’s hard for me to take this seriously as a case where McConnell “owes the country some answers” when I don’t think the country particularly cares or really should care.