A Poltiical Biography of Senator Mitch McConnell
by John David Dyche
(Click for Amazon book review)
OnTheIssues.org BOOK REVIEW:
Mitch McConnell is in the election battle of his career in 2014 (against Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky Secretary of State and Democrat for Senate). So this biography is timely, especially since it's the only biography available of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. If Grimes wins in November, she will be viewed as a "giant killer" on the scale of David Brat (who took out House Majority Whip Eric Cantor in their June 2014 primary). If McConnell wins in November, it's likely he will become the Senate Majority Leader, since his victory implies a few other Republican Senate victories needed to give the GOP the majority in the Senate. In other words, the Kentucky Senate race is the hottest of the 2014 election.
This book is a solid biography of Mitch McConnell. It was reviewed by McConnell before publication, and hence is an "authorized biography," but the author (John David Dyche, a columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal) claims that McConnell only commented and never made any editorial demands. The author discloses that he "likes Senator McConnell personally, [and] is generally sympathetic with his politics" (p. 251). The book details numerous negative incidents from McConnell's past, and certainly seems fair and balanced (especially since the book details positives and negaitves of just about every other major Kentucky politician too). Here are the highlights of what the author thinks readers should know about McConnell:
This book also details numerous other Kentucky politicians, and how McConnell worked to help them or to defeat them, portraying McConnell as a master campaigner both in Kentucky and within the Senate. The reader will also learn all about the "Fancy Farm" political event, evidently the biggest political event of the year in Kentucky despite its odd-sounding name (as we write this editorial, the 2014 Fancy Farm event just took place, and made national news with odd-sounding headlines).
- McConnell believes in pork-barrel politics. Most politicians claim they would end earmarks, but McConnell embraces them, proudly claiming in campaign ads that he has brought home to Kentucky hundreds of billions of federal dollars, and that his opponents could never do so. He opposed campaign finance reform from McCain-Feingold to… well, to just about every other reform too (p. 123) .
- McConnell favors the status quo on most other electoral and procedural reforms too, such as defending the Electoral College after Al Gore's popular victory in 2000 (pp. 148-9), and opposing term limits as "a ridiculous idea" (p. 102). McConnell likes things the way they are, which defines him as "establishment," and which opened him to a Tea Party primary challenge earlier this year.
- McConnell handily disposed of his Tea Party challenger (60%-35%) because McConnell carefully studies Kentucky politics, and carefully studies how to win each race based on its times and its context. McConnell applies this to other races in Kentucky, and the author credits McConnell with nearly single-handedly building the Republican Party in Kentucky to its strength today.
- While McConnell toes the conservative line on most issues, he has a strong sense of civil rights for minorities. He attended Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech (yes, attended it, in person, in 1963, because he saw it would be important, pp. 13-4); he opposed Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign because Goldwater opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act (pp. 3-4); he opposes the Flag Burning Amendment on free speech grounds (p. 77); and he married interracially (to Elaine Chao, the former Secretary of Labor, see her excerpts below too). McConnell's voting record in the Senate does not reflect his pro-civil rights stance much, but he has a soft spot on this issue that his colleagues might use for co-sponsorships in the future.
For anyone interested in Kentucky politics, this book is a must-read. For the 99% of the rest of us, this book is a must read to learn about our new Senate Majority Leader, if McConnell wins, or to see who the newest Democratic hero of the Senate beat, if Grimes wins.
-- Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief, OnTheIssues.org, August 2014
| OnTheIssues.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
Ernie Fletcher: 1998: Pro-life, but not on a mission.
Budget & Economy|
Ernie Fletcher: Cure budget ills by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse.
Jim Bunning: 2008: $700B bailout bill is socialism.
Mitch McConnell: 2008 economic bailout: put Main Street ahead of Wall Street.
Mitch McConnell: 1963: Witnessed MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech.
Mitch McConnell: Flag-burning is free speech; no Constitutional amendment.
Mitch McConnell: Switched to opposing flag-burning amendment.
Robert Byrd: As Ku Klux Klan member; opposed 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Mitch McConnell: 2008 bailout means firm limit on executive compensation.
Mitch McConnell: Supported anti-flag burning amendment; but then changed mind.
Mitch McConnell: 1983: Appealed to Reagan Democrats on school prayer.
Energy & Oil|
Mitch McConnell: Find more, use less: drill ANWR & off coast.
Mitch McConnell: 1979: Killed "garbage-to-steam" plant.
Mitch McConnell: Got funding for KY's first federal wildlife refuge.
Families & Children|
Mitch McConnell: 1983: Initiative to fingerprint children.
Paul Patton: 2002: Denied then admitted extramarital affair.
Mitch McConnell: 1983: Don't give away the Panama Canal.
Mitch McConnell: Opposed "Moscow-centric" focus on former Soviet Union.
Elaine Chao: 2001: Opposition to Chinese trade is xenophobic hysteria.
Heritage Foundation: OpEd: Sullied hawkish views for sake of Chinese money.
Mitch McConnell: 1986: Trade sanctions against apartheid in South Africa.
Mitch McConnell: Treat Hong Kong separately from China for trade.
Mitch McConnell: 1994: Firmly supported NAFTA and GATT.
Steve Beshear: NAFTA favors foreign interests over Kentucky's own.
Ernie Fletcher: 2005: OpEd: Violated state merit system by improper firing.
Ernie Fletcher: OpEd: Lost in 2006 after admitting political discrimination.
Mitch McConnell: Term limits are an idiotic notion.
Mitch McConnell: 1990: Opposed Motor Voter: just registers uninformed voters.
Mitch McConnell: Leading opponent of campaign finance reform.
Mitch McConnell: 2001: Electoral College is the linchpin of American politics.
Paul Patton: 2002: Called special session for public financing system.
Mitch McConnell: Declines NRA contributions, but opposes gun control.
Mitch McConnell: 2000 McConnell Miracle: $700M for Kentucky tobacco farmers.
Mitch McConnell: $10B paid by tobacco companies, but no federal regulation.
Mitch McConnell: 2007: Expand SCHIP with "Kids First" bill.
Ben Chandler: 2004: Focus on protecting military veterans.
Mitch McConnell: 1969: Opposed ABM deployment, but supported it later.
Mitch McConnell: 1983: If we spend too little on defense, we lose America.
Mitch McConnell: 1999: Clean up Paducah uranium enrichment plant.
Ben Chandler: 2003: Focus on job losses from "Bush Economy".
Principles & Values|
Bill Clinton: OpEd: Won with public focus on domestic over foreign issues.
Elaine Chao: 1993: Married Mitch McConnell on Ronald Reagan's birthday.
Jim Bunning: 1983: Ran for governor; but lost badly.
Jim Bunning: I don't read newspaper; I get all my info from Fox News.
Mitch McConnell: 1957: President of high school student body.
Mitch McConnell: The best kind of change is gradual change.
Mitch McConnell: 1993: Married Elaine Chao on Ronald Reagan's birthday.
Mitch McConnell: Contract With America was a tactical mistake.
Mitch McConnell: 2001: Accused of improper relationship with Chaos in China.
Newt Gingrich: OpEd: Great revolutionary but less adept at governing.
Sarah Palin: OpEd: Palin made most sense in election about change.
Scotty Baesler: 1998: Won primary as conservative Blue Dog Democrat.
Scotty Baesler: OpEd: '98 Fancy Farm rant was turning point to campaign loss.
Ben Chandler: 2004: No new tax pledge.
Jim Bunning: AdWatch: Voted for tax breaks but not minimum wage increase.
Mitch McConnell: 1977 AdWatch: Horse Sense understands when tax cuts are real.
Mitch McConnell: 1987: Supported $87.5B earmark-laden highway bill.
Ronald Reagan: 1987: Vetoed $87.5B earmark-laden highway bill.
War & Peace|
Mitch McConnell: 1967: Against Vietnam war, but enlisted in Army reserves.
Mitch McConnell: Kuwait war was worth fighting, including avoiding Baghdad.
Mitch McConnell: 2005 Iraq: Democracy is the ultimate antidote to terrorism.
Mitch McConnell: Honorable discharge as medically unfit in Vietnam War.
The above quotations are from Republican Leader
A Poltiical Biography of Senator Mitch McConnell
by John David Dyche.
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