Because Republican support for Donald Trump is key to the sustainability of his presidency, much of the political world suddenly finds itself paying very close attention to anything resembling GOP criticism of the White House. With this dynamic in mind, a Mitch McConnell quote
received quite a bit of attention yesterday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wishes there was "less drama" coming out of the White House following reports that President Donald Trump revealed classified information during a meeting with Russian officials last week.In response to questions, McConnell said that he has not lost confidence in the president and that he still trusts him with classified information."I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House," McConnell told reporters, not directly responding to the latest controversy flowing out of the executive branch.
"Ah ha!" the political world responded, Mitch McConnell must be growing weary of Trump World's constant stream of scandals and self-imposed crises, each of which are difficult to defend. The Senate Majority Leader must want the president and his team to get their house in order -- and stop doing things like leaking highly classified intelligence to the Russians for no reason.But consider the quote with a little more context
: "I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda, which is deregulations, tax reform, [and] repealing and replacing Obamacare."It's the latter half of the sentiment that sounds more cynical than principled.Remember, McConnell was responding to questions about the president leaking classified information to Russian officials at a meeting requested by Vladimir Putin. The Kentucky Republican wants less "drama," not because Trump's recklessness puts lives at risk, but because the president's failure to do his job properly might get in the way of McConnell's regressive plans.The message isn't "Stop leaking to Moscow because people might die"; it's "Stop leaking to Moscow because it might get in the way of cutting taxes."As The New Republic
's Brian Beutler put it
Sharing highly compartmented, classified information with Russians is a theatrical distraction from the greater good of polluting streams, enabling predatory financial practices, cutting taxes, and taking people's health care away.The idea that GOP congressional leaders will sacrifice almost any larger value for tax cuts is a bit of a running joke on political Twitter, but it is 100 percent true. It requires no exaggeration at all. Those who write it off as hyperbole must contend with McConnell, confronted with the possibly lethal consequences of his own dereliction, admitting that tax cuts are the forest, all other considerations are just trees.
You probably aren't the only one wondering why Republicans would risk so much by standing by Trump in the face of devastating scandals. Tribalism is certainly part of the equation, but McConnell hinted yesterday at another key component: GOP lawmakers see Trump as the guy with the pen who'll sign their bills into law.Sure, Mike Pence would do the same, but the process of abandoning Trump, pushing him out of office, and dealing with the aftermath would take quite a bit of time -- time Republicans would rather spend targeting Americans' health care benefits.The calculus for GOP leaders is increasingly complex and principle-free: what hurts Republicans and their priorities more, standing by Trump or throwing him under the bus?