Sunday, June 7, 2015

Mitch Reaches Across the Aisle

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was the only Republican (or at least the only nationally-known Republican) to attend Beau Biden's funeral yesterday in Delaware.

Also attending from Kentucky:   Democrats Jack Conway and Jerry Lundergan.

I am proud of McConnell for that gracious act of compassion he demonstrated by going to the funeral.  He and Vice President Joe Biden served in the Senate together for more than two decades; they are friends and colleagues, notwithstanding that they sat on opposite sides of the aisle.  It was therefore entirely appropriate for McConnell to pay his respects to the Vice President's late son.

What I do not understand, however, is why McConnell was the only Republican present.  The U.S. Senate is a small club. Many Republicans served with Biden for years. I wouldn't expect the entire Republican caucus to attend.  But no one else, other than McConnell?  That's shameful.

This was not about policy or politics. This was about a father losing a son, made sadder still by the fact that he has lost one before.  Moreover, because the Vice President presides over the Senate, he still has a connection to that institution.  He is still a colleague.

My suspicion is that Republicans wanted to avoid the risk of being photographed with any of the prominent Democrats who attended:  the Obamas, the Kennedys.  And then such photo surfacing in a primary.  Sure, there are politicians cynical and mean-spirited enough to take advantage of such a photograph, and to the extent they try that, voters should punish them resoundingly.

McConnell's thoughtfulness to Biden explains why he and Biden have been able to get real work done on behalf of the country when the president was intransigent. McConnell well knows that at the end of the day, successful governance requires functioning relationships.

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