U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, speaks during the 133rd Annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013.
Stephen Lance Dennee/AP

McConnell digs deeper on record on women’s issues

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), facing a tough re-election fight, is clearly worried about the gender gap. In fact, he and his campaign team are worried enough to start stretching the truth to the breaking point.
To be sure, this is an ongoing problem. Last fall, Team McConnell insisted the senator supported fair-pay efforts for women, despite his repeated opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
But as Election Day draws closer, the problem seems to be getting worse. Jennifer Bendery reports today:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) unveiled a new campaign ad on Tuesday that gives an incredibly misleading account of his record on the Violence Against Women Act, a bill he has voted against repeatedly – most recently opposing it over its expanded protections for victims of domestic abuse.
In the ad, called “As If,” McConnell’s wife defends his record on women’s issues against “desperate” attacks from his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. A narrator’s voice says McConnell co-sponsored the original VAWA and has “always supported its purpose.”
Someone certainly appears to be desperate, but in this case, it’s not Alison Lundergan Grimes.
The facts are clear and not in dispute. The “original” Violence Against Women Act was drafted in 1991 and never received a vote. Since then, VAWA has come to the Senate floor several times, and in each instance, McConnell voted to kill the legislation.
The Kentucky Republican may support the “purpose” of the law, but as a practical matter, I’m afraid that doesn’t make any difference. McConnell voted against the bipartisan measure, over and over again. If he had his way, the law wouldn’t exist. Indeed, the long-time GOP senator voted against it even when he knew with certainty it would pass – suggesting McConnell opposed the law just to make a point about the depth and seriousness of his opposition.
This new ad, featuring McConnell’s wife, doesn’t technically lie, but it walks right up to that line, misleading the public in the hopes that voters won’t know the difference. It’s a sad, cynical game.
What’s more, after three decades in the Senate, what does it say about McConnell that he’s so embarrassed by his voting record that he has to release deceptive ads?
If the Republican lawmaker wants to defend his vote, fine. If he wants to explain why he’s changed his mind, that’s fine, too. But if McConnell finds his own record so hard to defend that he has to resort to ads like these, what does that say about his lengthy tenure in Washington?
As we’ve discussed before, McConnell shouldn’t struggle this badly to explain his own positions – if he can’t defend the votes he’s cast, maybe he shouldn’t have cast them. The senator’s task is to tell voters why he repeatedly voted to kill the Violence Against Women Act, not pretend he supported it.
If the senator is struggling with women voters, he can either apologize for his votes or explain his votes on the merits. Wilful deception only adds insult to injury.