When Mitch McConnelll told a local group in Kentucky on Monday that President Donald Trump “had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process,” he couldn’t have fully suspected what might come next.
It was a Trumpian barrage of tweets and statements suggesting that McConnell not only wasn’t doing his job well, but that, if he continued to not get done what Trump wanted done, he should consider resigning.
It started Wednesday afternoon. “Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so,” Trump tweeted. “After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?”
On Thursday morning, Trump hit McConnell again. “Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!” he tweeted. Then, again on Thursday: “Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing. You can do it!” (Yes, Trump sent this tweet from his own 17-day vacation. And, yes, that irony was apparently lost on him.)
Asked later Thursday about McConnell, Trump suggested that if the Kentucky Republican can’t get health care reform, tax reform and infrastructure spending done, he should consider stepping aside. “You can ask the question,” Trump told reporters of McConnell’s fate.
Through it all, McConnell remained silent — even as more than a dozen of his Senate Republican colleagues rallied to support him publicly amid Trump’s fusillades.
Here’s the thing: There’s no question that Trump came out of the exchange looking worse. But, he’s still the Republican President and the ostensible leader — in terms of policy and politics — of McConnell’s party. Trump and his White House will dictate where the party goes legislatively — tax reform appears to be next — not only over the coming weeks, but over the coming months and even years.
McConnell has no option but to find ways to deal and work with Trump. No matter how much Trump savages him personally, there’s no way McConnell will walk away from the opportunities presented by having a Republican in the White House and GOP in control of the Senate.
That effort got harder this week as McConnell learned — or, probably, re-learned — that even the smallest criticism of Trump won’t go unanswered. What was already a somewhat tenuous relationship between two men who could not be more different is even more awkward now. And that makes McConnell’s job — already incredibly difficult given the unpredictability of this President — that much harder.
Mitch McConnell, for getting in a fight with a guy you know never walks away from one, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.