McConnell really hates being called 'Moscow Mitch' — but 'Cocaine Mitch' is just fine


Mitch McConnell sells 'Cocaine Mitch' T-shirts and calls himself the 'Grim Reaper,' but he thinks the nickname 'Moscow Mitch' goes too far.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell complained in an interview on Tuesday that people have been calling him "Moscow Mitch," but he has no problem with nicknames that tease him about cocaine and murdering popular legislation — and his Democratic opponents.

Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt said he "played the cocaine song" before McConnell joined his show because "Cocaine Mitch" is a "popular hashtag" and "Grim Reaper is as well," but he and McConnell agreed that the also popular nickname and hashtag "Moscow Mitch" is unfair to the Republican senator and over the line.

"It's modern-day McCarthyism," McConnell said. "Unbelievable for a cold warrior like me, who has spent a career standing up to the Russians, to be given a moniker like that. It's an effort to smear me. I can laugh about things like the Grim Reaper, but calling me Moscow Mitch is over the top."

McConnell and Hewitt rehashed his historical opposition to the Soviet Union, but neither man discussed why McConnell has received the nickname.

The "Moscow Mitch" label came about after McConnell refused to allow the Senate to vote on legislation protecting American elections from future Russia meddling.

Despite reports from U.S. intelligence agencies, special counsel Robert Mueller, and the Senate Intelligence Committee indicating that Russia seeks to interfere in the 2020 elections, as it did in 2016 on Trump's behalf, McConnell has refused to act.

McConnell's refusal to protect the U.S. from Russia is an echo of his actions during the 2016 campaign, when he hobbled the Obama administration's response to Russian interference. At the time, top intelligence officials briefed congressional leaders to inform them that Russia was targeting the U.S. election, but instead of presenting a united, bipartisan condemnation of such attempts, McConnell threatened the Obama administration.

"I will condemn you and the Obama administration for trying to mess up this election," McConnell reportedly told then CIA Director John Brennan.

McConnell has even been criticized by his fellow conservative Republicans for his refusal to sign on to election security.

Meanwhile, he has reveled in the "Grim Reaper" nickname he gave himself earlier this year.

"If I'm still the majority leader in the Senate [in 2020], think of me as the Grim Reaper," McConnell told voters in April, threatening to block any popular progressive legislation that might pass the House. "None of that stuff is going to pass."

But McConnell hasn't waited until the 2020 election; he's refused to hold votes on plenty of legislation the House has passed this year. Democrats say he had turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard, on everything from gun safety bills to a minimum wage increase to protecting access to health care.

McConnell so enjoys his "Grim Reaper" nickname and reputation that his campaign used it to speculate about the death of his Democratic opponent, Amy McGrath, with a mock tombstone — hours after a mass shooting.

The "Cocaine Mitch" label, which started as an insult from a fellow Republican in West Virginia, has also been completely embraced by the senior Republican.

His reelection campaign sells "Cocaine Mitch" T-shirts, even after the mother of a man who died of an overdose slammed him for his cavalier attitude.

McConnell told reporters in May that it was "fun" to insult families with the "Cocaine Mitch" title, rather than helping them by enacting legislation.

For McConnell, "jokes" about death and drug use are fine and even flattering, and he welcomes the criticism. But pointing out his refusal to stand up to Russia by labeling him "Moscow Mitch" apparently hits too close to home for him.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.