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The Long Game
by Mitch McConnell
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
Senator Mitch McConnell's memoir, The Long Game, makes it clear that whether as majority leader or in opposition, the man on the page is the same man you see on the news. Originally published in 2016, a paperback edition came out in 2019 that not only included an introduction by then-President Donald Trump but a new afterword where he goes over the battles over the Supreme Court nominations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. For both Trump and McConnell, that filling of as many vacancies in the Federal judiciary as possible was a top priority.
McConnell does not spend a lot of time on policy, at least in fleshing out his own ideas except insofar as what he's against: campaign finance reform, Obamacare, the media, the "far left agenda." There's a certain amount of score settling. While praising his staff and colleagues, his respect for those across the aisle is somewhat limited. In negotiations, Nancy Pelosi's function "was to come with one talking point and repeat it again and again." [p. 215] He likens Barack Obama to "the kid in your class who exerts a hell of a lot of effort making sure everyone thinks he's the smartest one in the room." [p. 185] One of the few Democrats he speaks well of is Joe Biden. After first relating an anecdote about how Biden likes to run off at the mouth, he says that he could negotiate with Biden because "he didn't only talk, he also listened." [p. 209]
McConnell takes us through his early life and various campaigns, as well as his ascent to power in the Senate. A perfect example of his lack of self-reflection--or, at least, unparalleled ability to rationalize his actions--is his explanation of his infamous declaration to a reporter for the National Journal that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." According to McConnell, that quote which was repeatedly cited by his critics was taken out of context. What he meant was that he wanted Obama to move to the center as, he asserts, Bill Clinton had done. "I don't want him to fail. I want him to change." [p. 202] For him, the "context" was that he said this after the passage of the stimulus package and Obamacare.
The Long Game is a good look into how McConnell views the world, and how he justifies his actions to himself, proud of the items on the Democratic agenda he blocked, and rueful about those he couldn't. It's less an examination of how the Senate works (or doesn't) than how McConnell thinks. As he remains a key Washington power broker, it is useful in laying out his mindset.
-- Daniel M. Kimmel, OnTheIssues editor, June 16, 2021
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Page last edited: Nov 25, 2021