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GOP faces test as Trump’s contempt for McConnell turns dangerous

The question isn't why Donald Trump directed dangerous "death wish" rhetoric at Mitch McConnell; the question is what Republicans intend to do about it.


Donald Trump condemns Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with such frequency that it’s practically become background noise for those who keep an eye on the former president’s rhetoric. In fact, Trump targets McConnell roughly as often — and with comparable vitriol — as any Democrat.

When the former president sat down with The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, he said, in reference to the Kentucky Republican, “The Old Crow’s a piece of s---.”

This obviously is not the sort of rhetoric Americans generally hear from one GOP leader referring to another. It was also mild compared to the message Trump published on his Twitter-like social media platform on Friday night. NBC News reported:

Former President Donald Trump raised the specter of political violence Friday with a fresh attack on Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, suggesting that the GOP leader had “a death wish” because he had voted to approve legislation sponsored by Democrats.

Trump began his latest offensive against the Senate minority leader in the late afternoon, arguing that McConnell “seems to be ... working for the Democrat [sic] Party” — a borderline hilarious criticism for anyone familiar with the longtime Republican senator’s ferocious partisanship.

But it was about an hour later when the former president published a follow-up missive, which went much further:

“Is McConnell approving all of these Trillions of Dollars worth of Democrat sponsored Bills, without even the slightest bit of negotiation, because he hates Donald J. Trump, and he knows I am strongly opposed to them, or is he doing it because he believes in the Fake and Highly Destructive Green New Deal, and is willing to take the Country down with him? In any event, either reason is unacceptable. He has a DEATH WISH.”

As a substantive matter, nearly all of this was gibberish — Trump seems convinced that the Green New Deal is being implemented, reality notwithstanding — but it was the “death wish” phrasing that stood out. Against a backdrop of elected officials facing violent threats without modern precedent, the former president apparently thought it’d be wise to publish a message that looked an awful lot like a threat.

For good measure, the same Trump message added, “Must immediately seek help and advise [sic] from his China loving wife, Coco Chow!”

This was, of course, in reference to Elaine Chao — who served as Trump’s transportation secretary for four years.

In other words, the former president not only raised the specter of political violence against his own party’s Senate leader, he also published a racist message against the senator’s wife, who also happens to have served in Trump’s cabinet.

Trump is who he appears to be.

Questions about the former president’s character — or lack thereof — were answered years ago and need not be asked anew. Rather, the better questions are directed at his party. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty’s latest column raised the appropriate lines of inquiry:

[Y]ou have to wonder: Where are McConnell’s Republican colleagues in the Senate? Why do they remain silent when Trump does something like this? Is this sort of behavior by their party’s de facto leader acceptable to them, particularly coming fewer than 40 days before an election in which they are trying to pick up the single additional seat that would give them control of the chamber?

To the surprise of no one, no GOP leaders stepped up over the weekend to defend McConnell or Chao. The party also made no effort to criticize Trump’s racist comments.

In fact, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida made some Sunday show appearances yesterday and was repeatedly asked if he’d denounce the former president’s latest tantrum. He refused, sticking instead to vague platitudes.

Trump’s dangerous “death wish” rhetoric will continue so long as Republicans, paralyzed by fear and neutralized by self-interest, continue to look away.