Apr 11, 2022

Mitch McConnell is interviewed by Jonathan Swan 4/07/22 Transcript

Mitch McConnell is interviewed by Jonathan Swan 4/07/22 Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsJonathan SwanMitch McConnell is interviewed by Jonathan Swan 4/07/22 Transcript

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell sat down with Axios’ Jonathan Swan to discuss the latest news on Capitol Hill 4/07/22. Read the transcript here.


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Speaker 4: (01:11)
Now welcoming to the stage Axios CEO and co-founder, Jim VandeHei.

Jim VandeHei: (01:16)
Thank you. Good to be here. Thank you all for braving the rain and coming out here this morning. Thank you to everyone out there in livestream land for watching this. This is an exciting morning, very exciting for me. It’s, to me, the battle of the Titans. In the one corner you’ve got Jonathan Swan, who yesterday the White House Correspondents’ Association announced won the Aldo Beckman Award for his mesmerizing and insightful coverage of President Trump. There we go. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Jonathan’s a friend. I also consider him to be by far and away the best, most talented interviewer of his generation. In the other corner, we’re going to Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, who I would argue is the most formidable political player on the scene over the last 30 years, if you think of the effect he’s had on the court and had on Republican politics. I also, having watched him over the years, consider him one of the most difficult interviews. So get ready for the battle of Titans and I’ll move the stage over to Jonathan Swan of Axios.

Jonathan Swan: (02:39)
Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for coming. I really appreciate it. Our guest today needs no introduction, but please give him a very warm welcome. Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

Jonathan Swan: (02:57)

Mitch McConnell: (02:57)

Speaker 1: (02:57)
How are you? How are you?

Mitch McConnell: (03:09)
Do we have an interpreter to help me?

Jonathan Swan: (03:15)
I’m going to ignore that joke. Some of my friends would say that. Leader McConnell, thank you for joining us. We appreciate you taking the time and we appreciate your commitment to answer our questions.

Mitch McConnell: (03:27)
Yeah, glad to be here.

Jonathan Swan: (03:28)
Thank you. You’ve worked closely with Leader Schumer to dramatically increase the amount of aid to Ukraine. You’re largely unified in Washington DC, but according to a recent YouGov poll, less than half of Republican voters say it’s in America’s best interest to stop Russia and help Ukraine. How would you explain to those millions of GOP voters why it’s in America’s best interests to send billions of tax payer dollars to Ukraine?

Mitch McConnell: (03:59)
Well, I think the same kind of sentiment was there prior to World War II, the feeling that this was a skirmish on the other side of the world that didn’t involve us. And ultimately, it did. Out of that grew the most successful military alliance in world history, NATO, North American Treaty Organization. What was it designed to do? Margaret Thatcher said it was designed to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down. And if you think about the history of NATO, it’s been an enormous success, even though one could argue Ukraine is on the other side of the NATO line. It’s very, very close.

Mitch McConnell: (04:49)
And I think if you look at the history of Russian behavior, it’s not unusual for Americans to be skeptical about any kind of foreign involvement. But I think this is a place for leaders to stand up and explain to the people why we care about this. Russia’s a nuclear power. It’s acting very, very similar to the way it did during the Soviet period. And we’re not putting American troops there. We’re helping them fight.

Mitch McConnell: (05:27)
At the risk of also making a point that probably shouldn’t have to make, there’s evil in the world. America is an example and a symbol of freedom and democracy, And wherever we can promote that in the world, the better the world will be served. So I think we have a moral obligation. We have a strategic obligation. It is in our best interest to be helping the Ukrainians. And I think they’re an inspiration to all of us. I mean, their president the way they’re putting up this fight. They basically defeated the Russian assault on the capital. So I’m going to continue to advocate that this is important, but there is that sentiment. You saw 63 House Republicans actually vote against a resolution, basically praising NATO last week, which-

Jonathan Swan: (06:26)
I saw six… I could be getting my number wrong, but it’s something like six of them voted against a State Department collecting evidence of Russian war crimes. That was a heck of a vote.

Mitch McConnell: (06:35)
Yeah, that’s surprising, frankly, but I don’t think the job of leaders such as myself is to echo that, but to argue with it, to confront it, to make the counter point of view.

Jonathan Swan: (06:52)
What you’re saying is moral leadership is important, regardless of where the mood of the electorate is.

Mitch McConnell: (07:00)
Well, I think you need to lead public opinion in different directions. I expect that most Americans wouldn’t have been able to find Ukraine on a map two months ago. This is a development that they’re now watching. They’re watching these atrocities. And all the Ukrainians are asking from us is… As my colleague Ben Sasse says, “Well, send them anything that’ll shoot.”

Jonathan Swan: (07:24)
Let’s go to something else that’s in the news, Leader. Ginny Thomas was texting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows after the 2020 election, discussing legal strategy with him and urging him to keep trying to overturn the election. Why should Americans feel comfortable with Justice Thomas ruling on cases related to the Trump White House’s efforts to overturn the election, when his wife was strategizing with the White House staff on this very issue?

Mitch McConnell: (07:54)
Look, Justice Thomas has had a 30 year distinguished career on the Supreme Court and nobody’s questioned his standards, his ethics. The Supreme Court itself decides when it’s appropriate to recuse. I have total confidence, not only in Justice Thomas, but the other Supreme Court justices to make the decision themselves as to when they should recuse from a case.

Jonathan Swan: (08:26)
When you say no one has questioned his ethics, plenty of people have, including George W. Bush’s former ethics lawyer, Richard Painter, who said that this was a case, particularly the January decision, his dissent on the release of Trump’s White House records to the January 6 Committee. Why should Americans feel confident that was not based on a desire, which would be an understandable desire, to shield his wife’s communications?

Mitch McConnell: (08:49)
Look, Jonathan, I have, as I said, complete confidence in Justice Thomas. I’ve known him, I’ve watched him for 30 years. He’s one of the historic figures of the Supreme Court. I have total confidence in his judgment-

Mitch McConnell: (09:03)
Chart figures of the Supreme court. I have total confidence in his judgment about when he should sit that we’re talking about.

Jonathan Swan: (09:09)
He’s answerable to no one look,

Mitch McConnell: (09:10)
Look, spouses are not. Members of Congress are not.

Jonathan Swan: (09:17)
No, but there’s a federal law, which says if the spouse has a significant interest in the case, says financial interest and significant interest it’s in the US code. And I know that they’re answerable to no one, because there’s no court higher than the Supreme court.

Mitch McConnell: (09:29)
Hey, good luck. I don’t know how much time you want to waste on this, but I have complete confidence in Justice Thomas to make the decision.

Jonathan Swan: (09:35)
Leader McConnell, I’ve watched a lot of your interviews and it’s part of your strategy to decline to answer questions you don’t want to answer. So I will move on. Leader, if Republicans take the Senate in November, as polls suggest is very likely and a Supreme court seat opens up next year, 2023, not an election year. Can you make a commitment for the American public here today that you will at least hold hearings on president Biden’s nominee?

Mitch McConnell: (10:08)
Most hypotheticals, I don’t answer. And I think that whole question puts the cart before the horse. We’re hoping to get into the majority as a result of this year’s election. What I can tell you for sure if the House and Senate are Republican next year, the president will finally be the moderate he campaigned as, finally be the moderate he campaigned as. And will look for, if you want to think about, an American football field, think of trying to accomplish things between the 40 yard lines, where you can reach agreement. A good example in the current Congress was infrastructure, postal reform. I’ll be interested in working with the president when he is willing to be a moderate. But with regard to personnel and the other things that we’re involved in, I’m not going to signal how we’re going to approach it.

Jonathan Swan: (11:04)
But respectfully, it’s a big deal that you won’t answer this question because in 2016 you made what you called a principled argument for not holding hearings on President Obama’s Supreme court, a nominee merit gala. You said it was the most important thing you ever did in your career. Most consequential. The argument you made was it was an election year and we should give the voters an opportunity to weigh in and let the next president select it. Are you suggesting that you are developing an argument for not holding hearings on a Supreme court nominee if it’s not an election year?

Mitch McConnell: (11:43)
I’m suggesting that I’m not going to answer your question.

Jonathan Swan: (11:47)
I mean, it’s an important question in the public interest. Don’t you think the public before the November elections has a right to know how you would approach such a weighty of topic?

Mitch McConnell: (11:58)
I choose not to answer the question.

Jonathan Swan: (12:01)
You decline to answer? We’ll move on. Leader, you are known for playing a ruthless style of politics. Where do you draw your moral red lines?

Mitch McConnell: (12:15)
I didn’t realize I was known for playing a ruthless. My wife thinks I’m a really nice guy. My kids like me. I’ve got a lot of friends.

Jonathan Swan: (12:27)
That’s four so far. Okay.

Mitch McConnell: (12:30)
I’m shocked to hear such a comment.

Jonathan Swan: (12:33)
Let’s just take as a premise. And I think the audience might agree with me that there are some people, maybe some substantial to people in this country, who might agree with that assertion?

Mitch McConnell: (12:42)
I’m sure you could find someone who could, yeah.

Jonathan Swan: (12:44)
So, moral red lights, where do you draw them?

Mitch McConnell: (12:47)
I’m perfectly comfortable with the way I have conducted my political career. And I’d be happy to respond to any specificity you want to apply to the term. What was it?

Jonathan Swan: (12:59)
Moral red lines.

Mitch McConnell: (13:01)
Moral red line. Yeah.

Jonathan Swan: (13:03)
Well, let me give you.

Mitch McConnell: (13:04)
I’m very comfortable with my moral red line.

Jonathan Swan: (13:06)
Let me give you one specific. Help me understand this. I watched your speech last year in February on the Senate floor, after the second impeachment vote on Donald Trump. And it was an extraordinary speech. You spoke very powerfully against the most powerful figure in your party, the president. And you said Donald Trump’s actions preceding the January 6th insurrection were a, “Disgraceful, dereliction of duty and that he was practically and morally responsible,” your words, “For provoking the events at that day.” How do you go from saying that to two weeks later saying you’d absolutely support Donald Trump if he’s the Republican nominee in 2024?

Mitch McConnell: (13:53)
Well, as a Republican leader of the Senate, it should not be a front page headline that I will support the Republican nominee for president.

Jonathan Swan: (14:00)
After you’ve said that about him. I think it’s astonishing.

Mitch McConnell: (14:03)
I think I have an obligation to support the nominee of my party.

Jonathan Swan: (14:09)
Is there anything they could do?

Mitch McConnell: (14:10)
I will. That will mean that whoever the nominee is, has gone out and earned the nomination.

Jonathan Swan: (14:15)
Okay. But Donald Trump earned it last time. And I’m just trying to understand what you say matters. You’re a very important voice in this country. You’re the leader of your party. And you seem to hold two concurrent conflicted positions, which is-

Mitch McConnell: (14:30)
No, not at all inconsistent.

Jonathan Swan: (14:33)
If I just finished.

Mitch McConnell: (14:33)
Not at all inconsistent. I stand by everything I said.

Jonathan Swan: (14:34)
I understand but-

Mitch McConnell: (14:36)
On January 6th and everything I said on February the 13th.

Jonathan Swan: (14:38)
I understand that. But what I want to understand, which I haven’t heard you address is-

Mitch McConnell: (14:41)
Because I don’t get to pick the Republican nominee for president. They’re elected by the Republican voters all over the country.

Jonathan Swan: (14:49)
I fully understand that, but take Liz Cheney, for example, she-

Mitch McConnell: (14:51)
You want to spend some more time on this as well?

Jonathan Swan: (14:54)
I actually do. No, no. I genuinely want to understand this. I really want to understand how you think about this because Liz Cheney, who has the same view of viewers of January 6th, she said she doesn’t want Donald Trump anywhere near the White House and she’s going to work to not make that happen. Because she thinks that there are some things more important than party loyalty.

Mitch McConnell: (15:11)
Yeah. Oh, well you, maybe you ought be talking to Liz Cheney.

Jonathan Swan: (15:18)
No, but it’s not a gotcha. I’m just actually trying to understand, is there any threshold for you of what someone could do on a moral level?

Mitch McConnell: (15:24)
Well, you know I say many things I’m sure people don’t understand.

Jonathan Swan: (15:30)
Okay. Leader McConnell, your National Republican Senatorial Committee has its entire email messaging to voters around Donald Trump. My Axios colleague received 143 fundraising emails from the NRSC sent in March. 137 of them mentioned Trump by name. The NRSC is inundating voters with messages about how they need to stick with Trump. Be loyal to Trump. Sign up for Trump’s new social network, a private business. If his actions before the January six committee, the January six, constituted disgraceful dereliction of duty, why are you so comfortable with fundraising off his name?

Mitch McConnell: (16:09)
Well, I’m not the chair of the NRSC. That’d be a good question to ask him.

Jonathan Swan: (16:12)
Some influence, maybe.

Mitch McConnell: (16:13)
But generally speaking direct mail is designed to raise money. And I think it’s no secret the former president has a lot of grassroot support across the country. And my assumption is those appeals are designed to raise money. That’s what the Senatorial Committee does. And the former president has a lot of grassroot support. No question about it.

Jonathan Swan: (16:36)
So, it’s political expediency?

Mitch McConnell: (16:39)
Their job is to raise money. And my assumption is these appeals are crafted in such a way to raise small dollar dollars.

Jonathan Swan: (16:46)
They certainly raise money. There’s no question. Let’s talk about the midterm elections. And I specifically want to discuss strategy first. You’ve talked about the importance of having electable nominees. What does that mean to you?

Mitch McConnell: (17:01)
Well, what it means is if you look at where the Senate majority will lie, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Missouri, Nevada, Arizona, almost all of those states are competitive in November. And we’ve had difficulty in the suburbs the last few years. I’m looking for candidates who can appeal to suburban voters and actually win in November. And so it’s a value judgment. You look at the primary choices, poll data, back around, appeal. We had a couple of cycles where the attitude was, “Don’t get involved in primaries.” So I always like to mention to people for folks, you may have forgotten. Sharon Angle, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock.

Mitch McConnell: (18:03)
Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, Richard Murdock.

Jonathan Swan: (18:03)
Christine O’Donnell?

Mitch McConnell: (18:06)
Christine O’Donnell.

Jonathan Swan: (18:08)
The witch. No, she’s not a witch. Sorry.

Mitch McConnell: (18:10)
Yeah. I think it’s pretty safe to say after 2010 and 2012, I concluded we needed to change the business model. And by that I meant not so much a philosophical litmus test, or in this era, whether you do or don’t like Donald Trump, but can you appeal to a general election audience? So your next question’s going to be, how are we doing? And the primary season’s just beginning and I’m pretty optimistic we’re going to have what I would consider a fully electable nominee in every one of those states.

Jonathan Swan: (18:48)
Well, you gave me four names. I have a few names for you. And I want to start with Eric Greitens, a candidate polls indicate could be your GOP nominee in Missouri. Greitens said, quote, “I want to tell you directly, Karl Rove and Mitch McConnell, hear me now. You are disgusting cowards and we are coming for you. We are no longer going to allow you not just to attack me and my kids, but to destroy this country.” Is this the sort of electability that you’re looking for, Leader McConnell?

Mitch McConnell: (19:26)
Yeah, I don’t have any comment about that.

Jonathan Swan: (19:30)
I mean, mind you, this is a man accused of tying a woman up, blindfolding her, taking nude photographs of her for the purposes of blackmail, then coercing her into sexual acts. Do you think he’s electable?

Mitch McConnell: (19:42)
I think the voters in a Missouri primary will take all of that into account.

Jonathan Swan: (19:49)
That’s a lot to take into account. Let’s talk about a candidate you have talked about, Herschel Walker, the leading GOP candidate in the vital Senate race in Georgia. You endorsed him, yet his ex-wife says he pointed a pistol at her head and said, “I’m going to blow effing brains out.” And an ex-girlfriend has accused him of threatening her life. Why is he a suitable candidate?

Mitch McConnell: (20:13)
Herschel Walker has addressed that issue repeatedly over the last 10 years. I think he’s…

Jonathan Swan: (20:22)
It’s a heck of an issue.

Mitch McConnell: (20:23)
Well, he admitted he had had some troubles in his life. He’s been an exemplary citizen in recent years. He’s a hero in Georgia. Almost every candidate’s had troubled periods.

Jonathan Swan: (20:39)
I don’t know that almost every candidate has pointed-

Mitch McConnell: (20:43)
Look, I don’t want to argue with it. I think Walker is completely electable. He’s actually ahead at the beginning of this race and we’re fully behind him.

Jonathan Swan: (20:51)
How did you… Absorbing those very troubling allegations? Talk me through your process for coming to the conclusion that you could put your name, Mitch McConnell-

Mitch McConnell: (20:59)
Yeah, well, I did that and I’ve endorsed him.

Jonathan Swan: (21:01)
But how?

Mitch McConnell: (21:06)

Jonathan Swan: (21:07)
Yeah, because one of your top operatives on the outside, Josh Holmes, when the first story came out with all this, he said, “Oh, I’ve never seen… This is terrible.” How did you go from… I mean, assume you had a similar… Maybe you didn’t, maybe you thought it was fine, but I doubt you did. How did you come from that to supporting him?

Mitch McConnell: (21:23)
The way I always do; a variety of different considerations. Every candidate has flaws and assets. This candidate has a lot of assets and is very competitive and has a great chance of winning.

Jonathan Swan: (21:36)
You’re the most powerful elected Republican in Washington, DC. And despite all the BS I hear around, there’s no obvious challenger to your leadership. People like to gin it up, but there isn’t. And yet recent polls show your approval rating is in the 30s among Republicans; not Democrats, Republicans. Why do they hate you?

Mitch McConnell: (22:06)
Look, there are two constituents that are important to doing this job: people of Kentucky who’ve sent me here seven times, and the Republican members of the Senate who’ve elected me eight times without opposition. I’m proud of that. My job is not to run on political popularity nationally. I’m not running for anything nationally. And when you are running one of the parties, you end up making people irritated. 100% of the opposition doesn’t like you, and you have to make decisions between factions at various times, and frequently you don’t have that greatest support internally. So as I said, the two constituents that matter to me are the people at home and the people in the Senate.

Jonathan Swan: (23:00)
But you have a theory of about… Because it sounds like part of your theory is it’s the cost of leadership, being in leadership is not a popularity contest. And you take decisions that can be compromises, it’s an ugly business sometimes. But it doesn’t make sense to me because I was looking at Schumer and Pelosi’s polling among Democrats, and they’re extremely popular. Pelosi was 67%, Schumer was 57, you’re 36 among Republicans. Do you have a theory as to why that is?

Mitch McConnell: (23:31)
No, just the price of leadership.

Jonathan Swan: (23:35)
But they’re the leaders of their party.

Mitch McConnell: (23:36)
Well, if I had a theory about it I wasn’t going to sit here and discuss it with you, Jonathan.

Jonathan Swan: (23:42)
Okay. Leader McConnell, let’s go to an issue that’s now very much live and dangerous in your party, the fate of Liz Cheney. You told Politico last February, the future of the party will be determined in places like Wyoming in 2022. The future of the party will be determined in places like Wyoming in 2022. What did you mean by that? It seems like you felt like there was something larger at stake for the party in the Liz Cheney race.

Mitch McConnell: (24:08)
Well, I think I was probably mentioning Lisa Murkowski too, who is also a member of the Senate.

Jonathan Swan: (24:14)
Who Trump’s opposing.

Mitch McConnell: (24:15)
Yeah. And I think it’s important for Lisa to be reelected. She’s one of the few sort of moderates in the middle in the Senate, is a key player in advancing bipartisan legislation. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure she’s successful.

Jonathan Swan: (24:33)
But Cheney, will you do anything to help her? Trump is raising millions of dollars.

Mitch McConnell: (24:37)
Well, I’ve contributed to Liz Cheney. Yeah.

Jonathan Swan: (24:40)
Do you plan to hold fundraisers or anything like that for her campaign?

Mitch McConnell: (24:44)
Look, I’m focusing on the Senate.

Jonathan Swan: (24:46)
Okay. Leader McConnell, what will be the Senate Republican policy agenda should you win back the majority? What will be your top legislative priorities?

Mitch McConnell: (24:56)
We’re going to address the issues that are front and center of the American people: inflation, the border, crime. The things that are front and center for the American people are the things that I think we ought to address. But we ought not to claim we can succeed in doing things exactly the way we would do them with a Democrat in the White House. So it’ll be a combination of contrast and some cooperation because there are things that need to be done for the American people when you have a time of divided government. And in fact, I negotiated three major deals with Joe Biden while he was Vice President during the Obama years, things that we had to address. And that’s going to be, I think, pretty clearly the approach of Senate Republicans next year.

Jonathan Swan: (25:48)
But those are still very broad categories. Is there any specifics you can share with us about what legislation you would try to promote? Even one idea, policy idea, if you win back to the majority.

Mitch McConnell: (26:00)
We’re going to do everything we can to push this administration into domestic energy production. One of the things we’ve observed here in the Ukraine war is the President seems to want everybody in the world to produce more except us. The policies in terms of making it difficult for domestic energy production have been outrageous under this administration. We were actually an exporter of oil and gas in 2019. We’ve gone just like that.

Jonathan Swan: (26:34)
Not actually. I looked at the figures. We’re still, depending on the month, it’s very close to net export. It’s not actually a huge drop.

Mitch McConnell: (26:42)
I think that the policies have been totally different. And so admittedly, he’s going to push back on those, but it’ll be more difficult for him to get some people confirmed, for example, to some of these agencies.

Jonathan Swan: (26:54)
Like a Supreme Court justice?

Mitch McConnell: (26:56)
Or these agencies. Yeah.

Jonathan Swan: (26:58)
Yeah. The reason I’m asking is in December, we reported you told donors that-

Jonathan Swan: (27:03)
The reason I’m asking is in December we reported you told donors that you didn’t want to release a detailed legislative agenda before the midterms. It was more important to focus on attacking Democrats and Joe Biden.

Mitch McConnell: (27:12)
Yeah, because the election is going to be a referendum on how people feel about this entirely democratic government. [crosstalk 00:27:20]. They’re going to express themselves, in all likelihood, pretty aggressively about how they feel about this administration.

Jonathan Swan: (27:27)
But don’t you feel you owe it to voters to tell them… People like Kevin McCarthy and Rick Scott believe you owe it to voters to show what you’re going to do in power. Don’t you don’t you feel like you have that obligation?

Mitch McConnell: (27:37)
Well, I think everybody needs to answer the question for… A candidate [crosstalk 00:27:43] in Arizona may have a different view than a candidate in New Hampshire.

Jonathan Swan: (27:46)
But they’re not going to be majority leader. You’re going to control the agenda.

Mitch McConnell: (27:48)
I know, but I’m not going to lay out the kind of plan you’re looking for. What we are going to focus on is the areas the American people are interested in. And in every one of these areas, Jonathan, we have a different approach than the current administration.

Jonathan Swan: (28:05)
Let’s turn to your own personal future now. You’ve decided to cooperate with a fully authorized biography, a book on Senator Mitch McConnell, to come out in the next few years, I think. Can you tell us why you’ve decided to do this?

Mitch McConnell: (28:24)
Well, there was somebody interested, and I had confidence that they were not out to just skewer me. And as you know, I’ve been in this job for a while, and I decided it was in my best interest to cooperate.

Jonathan Swan: (28:39)
Do you think we’ll learn more about your hidden methods of wielding power? How frank are you going to be in this book?

Mitch McConnell: (28:48)
You’ll have to wait and see.

Jonathan Swan: (28:50)
Nothing you can share? There’s no one… This is off the record.

Mitch McConnell: (28:53)
Yeah, I can tell.

Jonathan Swan: (28:56)
Leader McConnell, you’re 80 years old, and you’ve spent nearly half your life in the Senate. It’s very likely, I think, that you’re going to eclipse Mike Mansfield’s record as the longest serving party leader in American history. Have you ever turned your mind to what regular citizen Mitch McConnell might do outside of the Senate?

Mitch McConnell: (29:21)

Jonathan Swan: (29:22)
What would that look like?

Mitch McConnell: (29:24)
Well, if I’d had the money, I’d love to have owned a baseball team.

Jonathan Swan: (29:28)
You got a bit of money. You can get one of those crap… I mean, I’m a cricket fan, but these crappy teams, right? Like AAA? I don’t know.

Mitch McConnell: (29:36)
It would-

Jonathan Swan: (29:37)
Seriously though, have you ever thought about, like every election… Again, I think that you’re someone who plays to win, and you’ve won by significant margins. But have you ever turned your mind to what you would do if you weren’t… Politics seems to me, I read your book, it’s been such an all-encompassing passion for you since you were a very young man. Have you ever allowed your mind to go outside of politics and think about what you would do if you didn’t have this?

Mitch McConnell: (30:09)
Condoleezza Rice says she wanted to be [inaudible 00:30:11] NFL. In my particular case, I kept on winning, so I didn’t have to reach that decision. But I’m not kidding. If I could pick the ideal next career, if I had the ability to do it, it would be owning a baseball team.

Jonathan Swan: (30:37)
I want to ask you something. I watched the first speech you gave on January 6th when you said… It seemed to me that there was… You said we can’t keep dividing. We can’t keep getting into these tribes. I’m not quoting you exactly. But it seemed like… I’ve heard you say… Let me phrase it a different way. I’ve you say at different times, a very optimistic speech about this country, which was we’ve been more divided. I’ve heard you say that many times, and you give the historical examples, which are true. The Civil War, caning on the floor, the South Carolina member caning. But it seemed that you also must be worried and were worried about some of these trends we’re seeing. And some of the Gallop polling is concerning about the proportion of Americans who believe violence is a legitimate way to conduct business and get their outcomes. And also just the distrust in institutions, that really is a pronounced trend, every institution. Do you really not worry on any level about some of these trends?

Mitch McConnell: (31:48)
Jon Meacham tackled that in his book a few years ago, The Soul of America, in which he went through the various low points in American history. And at any given time, I think people have thought they were in surely the most disturbing period. Generally, that’s not the case. We run into these rough patches and we self-correct. Trends come and go. But the genius of America is the ability to do that, to do that, to correct our flaws. And we’re always, I think, working to improve. And so I’m totally optimistic about the future of the country. Whatever short term problems we’re witnessing, like some of the ones you talked about, we’ll get past it.

Jonathan Swan: (32:39)
I know what you mean, but this is a long trend. I hear what you’re saying. I do have that sense of perspective and history. And I may not have read as much American history as you have, I don’t know that many people in this room have, but I certainly read my fair amount. And these trends are decades-long trends, and I think they’re pretty concerning. And what I’m curious about is apart from just a hope or a sort of cosmic trust-

Mitch McConnell: (33:04)
But there’s always a counter-movement pushing back. Let me give you an example.

Jonathan Swan: (33:08)
What is that? I don’t see.

Mitch McConnell: (33:09)
Let me give you an example. This nonsense on college campuses that I don’t want to be exposed to anything I may disagree with, completely indefensible, particularly in the college environment. Well, there’s a movement developing, pushing back against that. Because it’s utterly absurd to say I’m unwilling to debate or discuss an issue with someone with whom I disagree.

Jonathan Swan: (33:34)
But I don’t think sort of anti-wokeism the movement that’s going to bring our country together. You know what I mean?

Mitch McConnell: (33:44)

Jonathan Swan: (33:45)
Going on Fox and yelling about critical race theory doesn’t seem to me the recipe for unity and harmony in the United States of America.

Mitch McConnell: (33:54)
All of these trends come and go. I’m optimistic about the future of the country. I mean, how could you expect 330 million people to all be in the same place on anything?

Jonathan Swan: (34:03)
I certainly don’t, but as I said, I think it’s too glib to dismiss it as we’re always going to disagree. Some of these trends are… You know that. I don’t think we’re disagreeing. I guess what I’m trying to understand is it’s so hard right now to see the way out of that. And I’m curious whether you actually do see any glimmers of hope apart from just a generalized it’s all going to be okay.

Mitch McConnell: (34:27)
I just don’t share your kind of doomsday scenario about this.

Jonathan Swan: (34:32)
Okay. I mean, it seemed like you did on January 6th, but maybe this at was just a moment when you’d seen the capital invaded.

Mitch McConnell: (34:41)
Well, that’s what I was reacting to, what we’d seen.

Jonathan Swan: (34:42)
Yeah, it was pretty bad.

Mitch McConnell: (34:44)
Yeah, and I stand by every word I said.

Jonathan Swan: (34:46)
I know you do.

Mitch McConnell: (34:49)
Let’s close our conversation with a numbers question. Certainly one of your strengths. How many Senate seats do you predict Republicans will have after the midterms?

Mitch McConnell: (34:59)
How many questions has he-

Jonathan Swan: (35:01)
You can’t dodge that question.

Mitch McConnell: (35:01)
How many questions has he asked that I have refused to answer? How much time have we spent in the last 30 minutes sparring over things he asked me that he knows I’m not going to answer? And that’s another one. I hope we’ll-

Jonathan Swan: (35:17)
54. 54. All right.

Mitch McConnell: (35:17)
I hope we’ll be in the majority.

Jonathan Swan: (35:18)
Okay. Senator, we appreciate your time. We appreciate you answering the questions, and not answering the questions, and answering some questions. Thank you for your time today.

Mitch McConnell: (35:28)
All right.

Jonathan Swan: (35:28)
We very much appreciate it. Thank you all. Thank you.

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