Let’s put it this way: It’s not the kind of rhetoric you’d expect to hear from an insurgent primary candidate running to Mitch McConnell’s right.
“We have way too much partisanship in Washington,” Matt Bevin told a Republican audience in Hardin County, Ky., on Monday. “And it shouldn’t be a function of, you know, the Democrats are this, therefore the Republicans have to be opposed to it or vice versa. It’s got to be what’s in the best interest of this country. Shutting down the government is ridiculous.”
He went on: “This idea of us being bomb throwers, being zealots who, ‘It’s my way or the highway’ — that’s craziness. Government is about negotiation, government is about compromise.”
In Bevin’s retelling, the secret key to Ronald Reagan’s success as president was bipartisanship: “The reason things got done was because Ronald Reagan, as staunch conservative on one end, and Tip O’Neill, as staunch liberal on the other end, remembered ultimately at the end of the day that they were there not to serve their party but they were there to serve the people. And that’s something that we are missing.” (In a later interview, Kentucky businessman Bevin even called arch-liberal O’Neill “statesmanlike.”)
These comments from Bevin appear on a video provided to National Review Online by Bevin’s political opponents, which you can watch below.
In the closing seconds of the video, Bevin was just arriving at an important caveat. Compromise is crucial, he said, but not compromise of “one’s principles and not [on] things that are in the wrong direction for this country.” With that, the video cuts off.
“What I’ve said is not to confuse compromise for capitulation — for compromising one’s principles,” Bevin told me in a 25-minute interview about his remarks. “Mitch McConnell is the messenger of capitulation, which he then turns around and tries to sell to us as having been a compromise. Very big difference.”
During his Hardin County appearance, Bevin was asked: Didn’t Republicans play into Democrats’ hands by precipitating the shutdown? He focused his ire concerning the shutdown on how the dispute came to a head in September:
Did anybody not hear the question? The question is – he’s under the assumption – he’s wondering: Would it be self-defeating to be somebody who would be a proponent of shutting down the government? Are we not playing into the hands essentially of Democrats with that thought process?
I would say absolutely, that would be the case, which is why not even a little am I a proponent of that. So if in anything that I’ve said I’ve left you with that impression, I don’t know how I’ve done that.
Because not even to the slightest degree am I a proponent of shutting down the government. Not even a little bit. In fact, I think our shutdown of it was so irresponsible because of the fact that we waited until the eleventh hour and fifty-ninth minute before we even started to discuss it.
That’s one of the other things that’s destroying this country, is that we have become so partisan.