A blow fish with the strategic mind of Cardinal Richelieu, Mitch McConnell has rarely erred as badly as he did last night. Two weeks ago polls showed reelection in 2018 looked far from certain; now, thanks to video of Warren trying to read a Coretta Scott King from 1996 and McConnell saying, “The senator will take her seat,” she’s got a campaign ad that costs a dollar and a half.
Democrats argued that Mr. McConnell was enforcing the rule selectively, citing examples of Republicans appearing to test the boundaries of Rule XIX. In one instance from 2015, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas accused Mr. McConnell of lying “over and over and over again.” In another, last year, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas described the “cancerous leadership” of Senator Harry Reid, the former Democratic leader.
Republicans accused Ms. Warren of violating the rule repeatedly, saying she had been warned before Mr. McConnell’s objection. Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, suggested that Ms. Warren had been rebuked over “a quotation from Senator Ted Kennedy that called the nominee a disgrace to the Justice Department.”
“Our colleagues want to try to make this all about Coretta Scott King, and it is not,” he said.
More than most senator, including Chuck Schumer, McConnell understands symbolism. He knew what Warren was up to; he’d spent six years of the Obama administration tolerating Warren’s kind of grandstanding. One of his House colleagues shouted “You lie!” during Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address. He must have known he turned her into a martyr.
I thought of the most violent act committed on the floor of the Senate: Congressman Preston Brooks’ caning of Charles Sumner in 1856 for decrying the Kansas-Nebraska Act.