Mitch McConnell’s lie is off to a rough start

MITCH MCCONNELL’S LIE IS OFF TO A ROUGH START…. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) wants people to believe that the pending financial-regulation reform bill would lead to “more bailouts.” Mitch McConnell is lying.

To be sure, we know why he’s lying — Democrats have a popular piece of legislation, and if it passes, voters might be pleased. McConnell can’t have that, so he’s making up nonsense, hoping just enough people won’t know the difference.

But the pushback he received yesterday was pretty fierce. Among Democrats, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was unusually incensed, while Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) all but called him a liar on the Senate floor.

Even Republicans were reluctant to rally behind McConnell’s absurdities. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) characterized the new argument as “a touch over the top.” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) compared McConnell’s pitch to “death panel” rhetoric. The Maine moderates — Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins — pretended not to know what McConnell had said so they wouldn’t have to defend it.

Even the media seemed unwilling to play along with McConnell’s willful ignorance. CNBC’s John Harwood told MSNBC that McConnell’s anti-reform argument is “a little silly when you look at the text of the bill.” And perhaps most importantly, Capitol Hill reporters pressed the Kentuckian on the fact that his bizarre opposition to reform comes on the heels of a private meeting McConnell attended last week with hedge fund managers and other Wall Street elites last week.

QUESTION: How do you push back against this perception that you’re doing the bidding of the large banks? There was a report that you guys met with hedge fund managers in New York. A lot of people are viewing this particular line of argument, this bailout argument as spin —

MCCONNELL: You could talk to the community bankers in Kentucky.

BASH: I’m not asking you about the community bankers.

MCCONNELL: Well, I’m telling you about the community bankers in Kentucky.

Now, if recent history is any guide, this may not matter. Mitch McConnell is lying. He knows he’s lying, as does anyone with even a passing familiarity with the issue. But as we know, the lie doesn’t have to make sense; it doesn’t have to withstand scrutiny; it doesn’t even have to be persuasive. It just has to be repeated, endorsed by conservative media, embraced by right-wing activists whose ignorance is easily exploited, and folded into the “debate” for the American mainstream.

Time will tell if McConnell will succeed on this front, but if yesterday was any indication, he’s off to a shaky start.