McConnell Wryly Calls Bannon a ‘Genius’

Senator Mitch McConnell took a sarcastic shot on Friday at Stephen K. Bannon, telling reporters at an end-of-the-year news conference that Mr. Bannon’s “political genius” had cost the party a Senate seat in Alabama.

.. Complicating their charged relationship is the question of whose side Mr. Trump will take. Mr. McConnell expressed confidence that the president would back the candidates he picks, saying, “I believe the White House will be in the same place I am.”

.. Mr. McConnell still has painful memories of the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, in which Republicans nominated Tea Party candidates who could not appeal to a general election audience.

.. The bad blood between Mr. McConnell and Mr. Bannon is no secret — they have been publicly feuding for months. In November, Mr. Bannon vowed to oust Mr. McConnell as majority leader, saying in an interview, “I have an objective that Mitch McConnell will not be majority leader,” adding that Mr. McConnell “has got to go.”

What about It, Mitch?

The congressional GOP is AWOL.

.. Donald Trump is on the hunt for a scapegoat, and he has settled on Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump presented himself to the voters as a master negotiator and dealmaker, but that of course was the character he played on television, not the actual man. Trump cannot sit down with congressional Republicans — much less a bipartisan coalition — and negotiate a deal on health-care reform. The reasons for this are straightforward:

There is disagreement among Republicans about what policies should be forwarded, and President Trump does not know what he himself thinks about any of them, because he does not think anything about any of them, because he doesn’t know about them. Trump does not do details — he does adjectives. He wants a “terrific” health-care system. So does Bernie Sanders, but the two of them don’t agree on what that means in practice.

.. In his decades as a vocal NAFTA critic, he has never offered in any specific detail any proposal for reforming any particular provision of NAFTA, and he has on occasion made it clear that he does not know what is actually in the accord.

.. His public statements about tax reform have been all over the map, out-lefting Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren with his attacks on the carried-interest treatment of some financial firms’ income and then doing his best impersonation (which is a very poor one) of Larry Kudlow preaching the gospel of pro-growth tax cuts. He once reversed and then reverse-reversed himself on H-1B visas over the course of a few hours.

.. The wily McConnell and the steadfast Ryan were fine and effective opposition leaders. But they are not in the opposition any more.

.. The British dumped Winston Churchill after the war, considering him a wartime leader unsuited to the needs of peacetime. If McConnell and Ryan do not want to be considered opposition leaders — and if the Republican party does not want to be considered an opposition party incapable of government — then now is the time to give us all reason to think otherwise.

.. McConnell probably is safe for now, mainly because he has a job no one else wants. He is one of the few Republicans in the Senate not possessed by the delusion that he is fated to be president. If one of those promising young men bruised by the ugly 2016 Republican presidential primaries should ever come to his senses and decide that Senate majority leader is actually a pretty good job, things might go differently.

.. Marco Rubio actually has the political skills and personal ability to be a real leader in the Senate, but he doesn’t seem quite convinced that’s worth doing.