Mitch McConnell tries to weasel his way back into Trump's good graces — by blaming coronavirus on impeachment

Brian A. Boyle
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  (Associated Press)

Too slow to shelter-in-place. Not enough testing or monitoring. Not enough ventilators.

We all know by now why the U.S. was caught off guard so badly by the current pandemic. Real reasons exist — with tangible, obvious cause-and-effect consequences — for why COVID-19 is sweeping through our country.

Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took to the right wing airwaves of Hugh Hewitt’s radio show to unveil a theory of his own on why America was so unprepared for a looming pandemic: The federal government was too distracted by the impeachment process to work on anything else.

“It came up while we were tied down in the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government because everything every day was all about impeachment,” McConnell claimed in the interview.

Yes, that’s right. McConnell just blamed the coronavirus pandemic on House Democrats for fulfilling their constitutional duty and moral obligation to impeach President Trump. On the sliding scale of rightful blame to shameless scapegoating, McConnell’s partisan charge can only be seen as purposeful, malicious and deceitful misdirection and political point scoring. That would be point scoring both in the game at hand and in the long-over game of impeachment, in which McConnell had already claimed victory after cutting short the trial.

Our hospitals are overrun, more than 3,000 Americans have died as of Tuesday afternoon, over 181,000 cases have been confirmed. Credible reporting says Trump was more concerned with the economy and his reelection campaign than the crisis staring him down. And the only thing McConnell knew how to do was remind Americans that the Democratic Party tried — and failed — to remove Trump from office earlier in the year, and then pin the blame for our current public health emergency on that effort.

After irking Trump and getting sidelined by his own party in the final stages of the most recent economic rescue bill, McConnell appears to be looking for an angle to edge his way back onto his Dear Leader’s good side. What better way than to blame the Democrats while further distorting the biggest demerit on Trump’s resume in the process.

Never mind, of course, that Trump deserved to be impeached. Never mind, of course, that McConnell led the blockade that stopped vital witnesses to Trump’s malfeasance from appearing in the trial.

For those who may have forgotten, the president leading us through this pandemic is the same president who attempted to coerce a foreign ally into opening a hack investigation into his chief political opponent by withholding badly needed military aid.

To be clear, the impeachment process did overlap with the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the Wuhan region of China. On Aug. 12, an anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint with the U.S. intelligence community inspector general, flagging potentially illegal conduct in Trump’s now-infamous “perfect phone call” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. By mid-December, the House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump.

On Dec. 31, the Chinese government reported the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the Wuhan region to the World Health Organization. The first reported case of COVID-19 in the United States was detected on Jan. 20. The next day, the Senate began Trump’s impeachment trial in earnest, and a little more than two weeks later, it voted to acquit Trump on both articles.

Do the timelines intersect? Sure. But that’s called correlation, not causation. Didn’t you learn that in middle school science class, Mitch?

Is impeachment really more to blame for the death of Americans than the disbanding of the federal government’s pandemic awareness team in May of 2018?

Is impeachment really more to blame than Trump’s reluctance to use the Defense Production Act to create more ventilators and masks and necessary health equipment?

Is impeachment really more to blame than the president’s own tweets downplaying the danger of COVID-19?

As McConnell conjures up sore feelings of the impeachment trial to grossly politicize our current moment, let’s remember the trenchant words spoken before the Senate by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who wondered whether Trump would ever put national interests ahead of his own.

"Is there really any evidence in this presidency that should give us the ironclad confidence that he would do so? You know you can’t count on him to do that. That’s the sad truth. You know, you can’t count on him to do that. The American people deserve a president they can count on to put their interests first.”

Schiff was warning of Trump’s loyalties and intentions when a true crisis emerged. Now we’re in one. Schiff was right then and he’s right now.

McConnell and the Senate Republicans should’ve listened to him. Now they have no one to blame but themselves.

Updates:
1:55 PM, Mar. 31, 2020: This editorial was updated with more recent statistics on COVID-19 infections and deaths.