Mitch Glitches Out

McConnell is another octogenarian in the Senate who insists on holding onto power, even as his health declines quite obviously.

Mitch Glitches Out
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday, after he froze up at the podium. Photo:Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc (Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) returned to the podium on Wednesday shortly after he abruptly stopped speaking for an extended period of time during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon. In the video of the press conference posted by television correspondent Raquel Martin, McConnell goes blank and still for more than 20 seconds before his colleagues are able to get McConnell to leave the podium.

After a little over 20 seconds of McConnell being fully silent, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) leans into McConnell to ask, “Hey Mitch, anything else you want to say? Or should we just go back to your office? Do you want to say anything else to the press?”

Additional video from NBC News reporter/producer Frank Thorp V shows Barrasso escorting McConnell away from the press throng, which was gathered for a Senate GOP leadership press conference.

When McConnell returned to the podium a few minutes later, he told reporters that he is “fine.” Thorp reported that McConnell responded “yeah” when asked if he could still do his job. An aide told NBC News that McConnell, who is 81 years old, “felt lightheaded and stepped away for a moment.”

In March, McConnell tripped and fell after an event sponsored by his super PAC at a D.C. hotel. He sustained a concussion and minor rib fracture and subsequently spent time at an inpatient rehab facility for some physical therapy.

The Senate minority leader is yet another example of an elderly politician continuing to cling to significant power even though the opportunity to retire with riches and influence remains an obvious choice. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who missed months of work when she contracted shingles earlier this year, immediately comes to mind. In fact, Feinstein’s shingles case was so severe it brought on encephalitis, or brain swelling, a rare complication of the virus.

I’m all for retired people having hobbies—but by that I mean things like gardening, baking, and water aerobics, not governing. And these senators could surely monetize their retirement—Fox News would cut McConnell a fat commentator check. But being in extremely powerful elected positions is not for people whose declining health is on very obvious public display.

McConnell isn’t up for reelection until 2026—and I hope we hear the magic words “Mitch McConnell is retiring” ringing throughout the land long before then.

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