The Washington Post’s front page today featured an article with the title “McConnell aims to rein in GOP to help it win White House.” The internet version of the same story is called “New Senate majority leader’s main goal for GOP: Don’t be scary.”
The sentiment is not without merit. It’s not in the interest of Republicans or conservatives for a Republican Senate to scare voters. Few would dispute this proposition.
There is plenty of room for dispute, though, about what behavior and legislative initiatives are likely to scare voters, and about how much “reining in” of conservatives is required to maximize the GOP’s prospects of winning the White House.
There’s also the question of what McConnell accomplishes by publicly voicing concern that, without his guidance, Republicans may come off as “scary.” That’s a Democratic and mainstream media talking point. Why should the leader of Senate Republicans express it?
McConnell has also made it clear that he wants to pass legislation. According to the Post, his model is Sen. George Mitchell who, as majority leader for the Democrats, delivered a large volume of bills to the desk of the first President Bush.
Again, the ambition has merit up to a point, but why publicly state it? The Democrats can block legislation in the Senate. They control whether McConnell can deliver on his goal of sending bills to President Obama.
Thus, by announcing that he wants to pass bills, McConnell sets himself up to be judged a failure by his own standards at the whim of Harry Reid and his crew. To be sure, McConnell can always blame the Democrats for blocking legislation. But having raised expectations, it will be more difficult than it otherwise would have been to blame the Dems.
McConnell may have a rocky time dealing with some conservatives in his caucus at certain points during the next two years. If so, we can expect to see Washington Post headlines about McConnell’s frustration with certain Republican Senators.
But why express anticipatory frustration?