Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hosted a press conference yesterday, but only in the loosest sense of the phrase. There was a senator, journalists, and questions, but in this case, as Joe Sonka reported, McConnell told reporters in advance that he’d chosen the topic of the day. If the media had questions about other issues in the news, well, too bad.
“I’m probably not going to be answering questions about anything else, but I’m happy to respond to questions about Obamacare,” McConnell said. “As some of you have complained from time to time that I don’t do a stake out after every event and I’m not going to do a stake out after every event because as you can imagine I prefer the news of that day to be what I’d like for it to be rather than what you all may be interested in pursuing.”
Ryan Alessi at cn2 published the above clip of McConnell’s appearance, noting among other things that McConnell also couldn’t offer much in the way of health care substance, beyond tired GOP talking points.
But it’s this notion that a Senate leader will dictate to journalists what the topic of the day is that rankles most. There are other developments of note in the world, and there are other measures pending on Capitol Hill of interest to the public. What does McConnell have to say about them? Nothing, because he wants to keep condemning the Affordable Care Act. What if reporters have questions that don’t relate to health care? McConnell doesn’t care.
The senator pre-approves the topic and then encourages reporters to play by his rules. Given this, why even bother with a press conference? McConnell could just issue a statement – spoiler alert: he doesn’t like “Obamacare” – and include a written Q&A with the questions he’s prepared to consider with the answers he’s prepared to offer.
If the Senate Minority Leader fears that would deprive him the opportunity to be on TV, he could always hand out copies of his statement on camera.
I especially enjoyed his candor: “I prefer the news of that day to be what I’d like for it to be rather than what you all may be interested in pursuing.” Well, sure. But until Mitch McConnell leaves the Senate and becomes the assignment editor for reporters in Kentucky, why should news outlets care what he “prefers”?
The senator is in the midst of a primary challenge, which will probably be followed by a tough general election fight. One wonders how long he can keep dictating what topics he’ll discuss and when.
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Mitch McConnell, assignment editor