I know it's an election year. I also know Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell feel an obligation to pursue every manufactured outrage to its logical extreme -- and then go just a little further.
But that doesn't make comments like these any less ridiculous.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed President Obama on Thursday for his earlier comments about the Supreme Court, accusing the president of an "intolerable" assault on the Judicial Branch. [...]"The president crossed a dangerous line this week. And anyone who cares about liberty needs to call him out on it," McConnell said in a speech to the Rotary Club of Lexington, Ky.
Look, there's simply no way McConnell actually believes such nonsense. He couldn't; it's impossible.
Obama said he doubted the Supreme Court would take any "unprecedented" steps, which would demonstrate a "lack of judicial restraint." As criticism of the court goes, this is less an "assault" and more a subtle "nudge." For Republicans to clutch their pearls over such mild rhetoric not only signals a ridiculous overreaction, but it makes them appear weak and easily frightened.
But the larger point that seems to have escaped the attention of the political world this week is that the Republican Party has been aggressively going after the federal judiciary -- as part and parcel of the party's messaging -- for many years. High-profile GOP figures, including President George W. Bush, have used far stronger language to condemn the judiciary than anything Obama has even hinted at.
Where was Mitch McConnell when his party made court-bashing part of its larger electoral strategy?
Indeed, in his second term, Bush characterized what he perceived as liberal judicial activism as "a threat to our democracy -- and it needs to stop." In the same speech, the Republican president was warning against "tyranny." Was this a threat? Did it cause Republicans everywhere to whine incessantly about the White House trying to "intimidate" jurists?
Throughout the Bush era, Republican leaders threatened to undermine the power of the federal courts. In one jarring instance, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) went so far as to say judges who are the victims of violence may bring the attacks onto themselves with liberal rulings.
If McConnell found his own colleague's remarks troubling, he kept it to himself.
More recently, members of the Republican presidential field have insisted they want to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over entire areas of federal law, and disregard Supreme Court rulings they don't like.
And yet, in GOP circles, it's now taken as a given that Obama looks like a "thug" for having "attacked" the judiciary this week.
Mitch McConnell crossed a dumb line today. And anyone who cares about reality needs to call him out on it.