The Corner

McConnell and Sasse Bury the Hatchet, Sort Of

Ben Sasse called Mitch McConnell on Tuesday evening, and the Senate minority leader congratulated the newly minted Republican Senate nominee on his come-from-behind victory in a hard-fought primary. Sasse rose from relative obscurity to win nearly 50 percent of the vote, leaving the Kentucky senator with little choice, if he is serious about retaking the Senate in November, about making a peace offering.  

The relationship between Sasse and McConnell has been tense, but sources say McConnell made it clear on Tuesday he wanted to talk, and Sasse was receptive. A Nebraska source familiar with the conversation describes it as brief and ”positive, but not long.”

McConnell, says the source, offered his congratulations, and Sasse told the minority leader he is willing to campaign for any Republican candidate and wants to help the party reclaim a Senate majority. 

Sasse surprised many observers Tuesday morning by apparently telling MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that he would support McConnell as majority leader, given that a handful of former McConnell aides had worked throughout the primary to stir up opposition to him and promote his opponent, former Navy pilot and state treasurer Shane Osborn. But Sasse didn’t actually go that far, committing only not to oppose the will of the Republican conference. “I’m a team player and looking forward to supporting whoever our leader is,” he said. Todd followed up: “You’re comfortable enough supporting McConnell if he is the one the conference puts up as leader?” Sasse assented. 

The Nebraska primary was a battleground in the ongoing war within the Republican party between the GOP’s establishment forces and tea-party insurgents, but there was no mention of that in last night’s conversation. (Sasse, though backed by the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth, both known for endorsing insurgent candidates, also has some establishment credentials: He is a former Bush-administration staffer and has a Yale Ph.D.) 

If there was no overt hostility in last night’s chat, then it went better than the last conversation between the two, which took place last November in McConnell’s Senate office. There, the Senate minority leader reportedly pummeled Sasse for working with the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has endorsed McConnell’s primary opponent, and for posting a YouTube video critical of Senate Republicans. A McConnell aide, according to a National Review Online report, called it “the most uncomfortable meeting he’d been in.” 

Sasse wasn’t McConnell’s preferred candidate, but he’s the Republican nominee. So now, one of the GOP’s rising stars and one of its longtime leaders are embracing each other — coolly, cautiously, and with a dose of skepticism. We’ve seen this before. 

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More