A number of Democrats were left shaking their heads last week when President Biden offered words of praise for Sen. Mitch McConnell at the National Prayer Breakfast. According to one media commentator in attendance, the President’s speech included the following words:
“Mitch, I don’t want to hurt your reputation, but we really are friends. And that is not an epiphany we’re having here at the moment. We’ve always — you’ve always done exactly what you’ve said. You’re a man of word — of your word, and you’re a man of honor. Thank you for being my friend.” See, op-ed by Charles M. Blow, “Biden’s ‘Friend’ Is the Enemy,” https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/06/opinion/biden-mcconnell-friendship.html
In today’s New York Times, another commentator wonders why Sen. McConnell spoke out against the Republican National Committee, which had described the events on January 6, 2021, at the U. S. Capitol as “legitimate political discourse.” He criticized the RNC despite the fact that most Republican politicians have either adopted the RNC’s Trump-oriented party line or have chosen to keep their mouths shut. See, article by David Leonhardt, “Mitch McConnell vs. Republicans: Making sense of the G.O.P. leader’s squabble with his own party,” https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/10/briefing/mitch-mcconnell-republican-party.html
Taking one speculative step further, Spirited Reasoners wonder whether the two events—the President’s speech at the prayer breakfast and Sen. McConnell’s speech the following week—might be connected.
Let’s assume for the purposes of argument that Sen. McConnell had already told President Biden, prior to the breakfast, what he intended to say. Perhaps he did so as an old friend. Or, more likely, perhaps he was testing the waters, gauging the President’s reaction. Wouldn’t it make political sense for the President to say something, both privately and publicly, that would encourage Sen. McConnell to break with the RNC?
If our speculations are correct, then President Biden, true to his promised role as national peacemaker, chose the National Prayer Breakfast as the perfect opportunity to encourage a political adversary to sow seeds of healing and truth rather than widening our political polarization. We can only wonder.
Regardless of the senator’s motivations, Spirited Reasoners believe in applauding comments by political leaders whenever they are truthful and helpful. When paramilitary gangs erect a noose, carry zip ties, smash through Capitol doors and windows, and shout threats at lawmakers engaged in the counting of electoral votes, such activities cannot be characterized as “legitimate political discourse.” Thus, the voice of someone on the Republican side of the aisle has been badly needed as a counterweight.
Now the question becomes whether other Republicans will have the courage to follow Sen. McConnell’s example.