The latest episode of Frontline, an investigative series with a historical left-wing slant that airs on taxpayer-funded PBS, appeared on Halloween night. That fit the scary tone of “McConnell, the GOP & the Court,” which portrayed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as a sinister Svengali of the Supreme Court. Jealousy, perhaps?
The biography opened with darkened still shots of McConnell made to look menacing, followed by the unflattering image of McConnell freezing up during a Capitol Hill press conference, leading into speculation from various talking heads about how long he could remain in power. The show also managed to turn a character-building aspect of his early life — being stricken with polio as a child that left him with a permanent limp — into a character flaw in the hands of a Democrat.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY): You’re stuck in a room, and you’re left with your own thoughts so much. It’s got to have had a huge psychological impact. I suspect to a certain extent it affected his ability to relate to other people, since he missed several formative years of developing socialization skills.
The hour-long narrative could be viewed by unsympathetic liberal observers (i.e., most PBS watchers) as McConnell turning to the dark side – i.e. Trumpian conservatism.
Narrator Will Lyman: But upon returning to Louisville to launch his political career, McConnell would start to show just what kind of politician he would be….In a sign of what was to come in his political life, McConnell put his ambitions first: He went negative, attacking Democrat “Dee” Huddleston for missing votes to make paid speeches.
Undercutting the foreboding narration was a light-hearted clip from one of actual 1984 campaign ads, showing a flannel-clad man in a cap trying to control bloodhounds on leashes.
Karoun Demirjian, the New York Times: The fact that he decided to go low in that campaign was an important lesson. ‘This is a legitimate tactic. Just basically be forceful, and when you have to be ugly, you have to be ugly.’
REAGAN “MORNING IN AMERICA” TV AD: It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better.
Of course, the press mocked Reagan for those optimistic “Morning in America” ads as well. Go “high” or “low,” Republicans can never win.
Frontline portrayed the Senate confirmation defeat of Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan’s nominee to the Supreme Court, as a pivot.
Lyman: At that time, McConnell was powerless. He watched as the Democrat-controlled Senate overwhelmingly defeated Bork’s nomination.
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: The Bork nomination was a crucible, a turning point. It’s made him particularly focused on Supreme Court battles and particularly ruthless in the way he conducts them.
McConnell was called “ruthless” three times in the documentary, while liberal journalists let their hair down in other ways as well going after “racist” Trump and chiding McConnell by comparison:
Lyman: McConnell, once an advocate of civil rights, made a shrewd calculation to remain silent.
So Mitch McConnell wants to bring back Jim Crow?
The Senate majority leader was portrayed as having made a devil’s bargain with Donald Trump after the white-power march in Charlottesville:
Lyman: In return for conservative judges, McConnell would give Trump what he wanted most–loyalty. They consummated the moment with a press conference.
Then came Trump’s defeat and the Capitol Hill riot. The narrator made McConnell’s decision to concede Joe Biden’s victory sound as ominous as possible:
As he had throughout his career, McConnell faced a stark choice about what he was willing to do to hold onto his power.
The program ended as it began, with another McConnell health scare during a public appearance. One eagerly awaits a while Frontline’s expose on President Biden’s health…or the Biden family corruption scandals…..
A transcript is available here.