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Politics 101 with Mitch McConnell: Caught with Your Pants Down? Blame the People Looking at Your Butt

What lies at the heart of the Ashley Judd smear plot scandal.

— from Reader Supported News

The best part about the tape recording of Mitch McConnell's campaign plans to slime Ashley Judd is the Kentucky senator's masterfully dark political response to questions about to it.

McConnell does not deny the authenticity of the tape of the February 2 meeting at his campaign headquarters, published April 9 by  Mother Jones reporter David Corn. [At this point there is no reliable public information about who made the tape or how. Corn received the tape with a condition of confidentiality.]

Nor does McConnell dispute the tape's content or his presence at the meeting where it was recorded. Instead, he says  things like this to reporters, as he did, three different ways, on April 9:

Yeah, as I indicated, last month they were attacking my wife's ethnicity, and then apparently, unbeknownst to us at the time, they were bugging our headquarters. Quite a Nixonian move. This is what you get from the political left in America."

Does McConnell's response constitute paranoid raving in the Nixonian mode, or a cold-blooded bit of political judo to turn an embarrassment into an attack, or a heartfelt statement of belief detached from reality, or something else?

To know with anything like certainty, one would have to get inside Mitch McConnell's head, and get out alive. But here are some possible clues:

"My Wife's Ethnicity"

He doesn't say who attacked his wife's ethnicity, whatever it may be.

Turns out his second and current wife, Elaine Chao, is of Chinese descent and was born in Taiwan. She was President George W. Bush's labor secretary and the first Taiwanese American to serve in a president's cabinet in American history.

And the "attack?" The Washington Post politics blog suggests it came from a Democratic Super PAC called Progress Kentucky that sent a Valentine's Day tweet on February 14. The Post provides a link to a page that is gone, but offers this much as the tweet's text:

This woman has the ear of @mcconnellpress - she's his #wife.

May explain why your job moved to #China! ...

So the tweet reveals:

  1. No attack on Elaine Chao's ethnicity;
  2. An implied denigration of her  nationality in a global economic context;
  3. An implication of a conflict of interest based on her Chinese connections;
  4. An attack on her (and anyone else involved) for sending American jobs to China;
  5. And the suggestion that she has undue influence on her husband.

So McConnell's response dishonestly goes for the hot button of race, while falsely asserting that race was used against his wife. Clearly, insofar as there is any attack in the tweet, it is aimed at Elaine Chao's role, if any, in the disemboweling of the American economic system by the Bush administration. Whetever Chao's role, the pliant Senator McConnell was at least an accomplice in the Bush administration's economic evisceration of America.

An Aside About the Alleged Tweet Victim

Chao, 60, was the only cabinet member to serve throughout Bush's term, 2001-2009. She was born in Taiwan, immigrated to the U.S. in 1961, and married McConnell in 1993, but her official and unofficial biographies have no mention of her becoming a U.S. citizen.

Her service as Labor secretary, while not particularly  contentious, was widely praised by business leaders. Labor leaders tended to think the Labor secretary didn't do much to protect workers.

At least two General Accounting Office reports were critical of the Labor Department under her leadership, and a Congressional committee report found that Chao and other administration officials broke the law by campaigning for Republican candidates while they held public office. No enforcement action  was brought.

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