Over at Huffington Post, there’s a blaring headline in two, count ‘em, two different columns from resident Villager, er, “Editorial Director,” Howard Fineman, about how improbably wonderful Mitch McConnell is up close and personal. With a mixture of dread and morbid curiosity, I clicked on it, and let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised; in just a few short paragraphs, which in the hands of a more able writer could have been reduced to a drunken tweet, Fineman’s starstruck paean to that cantankerous old biddy beautifully summed up everything that is wrong with Washington, and our politics.
Blithely indifferent to the well-deserved criticism of the last time the jackals of the press enjoyed an unseemly bacchanalia with their purported targets at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which was only last weekend, Fineman brags that interspecies action between the “hens” and “foxes” was going on yet again, at the Kentucky Derby. For some reason, I always thought the Kentucky Derby was just another opportunity for idle, rich white people to get together for mutual solidarity and daytime drinking, with picture hats; kind of like Gay Pride, except the opposite.
Turns out I was wrong; it’s yet another time for “bipartisanship,” which means our most fawning media stars and our sleaziest politicians flirting coyly amongst themselves while hurling cocktail detritus on the cheap seats below. Let’s let ace reporter Fineman set the scene:
I picked the winner of the Derby, “I’ll Have Another,” but for shamefully accidental reasons. Everybody’s having another here, juleps, Buds or whatever. So it seemed appropriate.
Now, I’m not one to frown upon excessive drinking, at least when, like Fineman, one has nothing useful to do in mind, but this observation might have been a tad less revolting were it not cheesy self-adulation wrapped in feigned insouciance. But please, Howard, get to the part promised in the headline, about Mitch McConnell being the “Soul of Graciousness,” which certainly would be interesting if true. Alas, instead we get more scene-setting:
A certain welcome giddiness takes over during the Derby race. People sing “My Old Kentucky Home” and cry. People who don’t like each other share the sagas of their respective dice. People almost forget what they do and who they are in the real world they inhabited before the call to the post — and the world they will inhabit after they go home.
That could be the booze, but does anyone, least of all Fineman, believe such a thing, even when drunk? Did David Gregory think Karl Rove was just some fun-loving fat guy off the street when he chose him as his dance partner? Did Fineman seriously think McConnell’s silly political theater, carried on solely for the benefit of the lower orders, would prevail when he lower orders are nowhere in sight? Please. But the adorable naivete gets even more (or less) adorable when we finally find out just what McConnell did that reminded Fineman of his favorite grandmother:
Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is known in Washington as a relentless and somewhat humorless partisan, became the soul of graciousness as the horses came out on the track. He retreated to the back row of the stands we were in so that my wife, who had never been to the Derby, could have a better view. McConnell made the same offer, and it was gratefully accepted, to Cathy Yarmuth, the wife of Louisville’s Democratic congressman, John Yarmuth. “I’ve seen a lot of those so move up in front,” he said. He forgot about politics and talked about sports. He was affable. It is what you do at the Derby. “I’m glad you’re having a good time,” he said, and even seemed to mean it.
And we were.
Well, then. That’s the whole story. McConnell offered seats, not to an icky Democrat and a member of the hated liberal media, but to their wives, and this paltry, last vestige of Southern courtliness that still resides in McConnell’s cankered soul puts him right up there, in Fineman’s eyes, with Mother Theresa and Gandhi, put together. In an odd way, Fineman’s breathless reporting is much more informative than it was intended to be, but about him, not McConnell.