Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a polite statement yesterday congratulating President Obama on his second inauguration, and it included much of the language one might expect. McConnell "wishes him well" and hopes the new term represents a "fresh start when it comes to dealing with the great challenges of our day."
This message from McConnell's office on Monday bore little resemblance to the message from McConnell's office on Sunday. Joe Sonka reported on an appeal sent on Sunday by McConnell's 2014 campaign manager.
"You and I are literally surrounded. The gun-grabbers in the Senate are about to launch an all-out-assault on the Second Amendment. On your rights. On your freedom.
"Just the other night, President Obama urged them to act. And then he went one step further, spelling out the 23 different Executive Orders he will take to get your guns.
"My friend, our freedom is under direct assault. From those who want take your guns. From those who want to shred our Constitution, and as our good in friend Rand Paul from Kentucky says, from those who want to be King."
This truly unhinged message went on to condemn "executive orders" that don't exist in our reality and rejected the idea of universal background checks -- an idea that enjoys overwhelming, bipartisan public support -- as a "thinly-veiled national gun registration scheme" intended to "ensure federal government minders gain every bureaucratic tool they need for full-scale confiscation."
If this nonsense came from some fringe activist group, it'd merely be a shame. But when the Minority Leader of the United States Senate is directly associated with hyperbolic garbage like this, it's far more troubling.
As Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) told Sonka about McConnell's email, "This to me is pretty much as low as you can go in terms of being irresponsible as a public official. He knows that's not true, he's making it up, and he's using it for his own political benefit."
Look, I'm well aware of the nature of fundraising messages. They are, by design, excessive and inflammatory. The whole point of the appeals is to scare the bejesus out of like-minded allies, in the hopes that they'll run for their checkbooks to prevent an evil bogeyman from destroying all they hold dear.
But in case McConnell has forgotten, he's in a position of power and authority, and with that comes some obligations. Among them: making at least some effort to be responsible when communicating with the public.
With this in mind, when McConnell's office lies to his own supporters and throws around ridiculous conspiracy theories, it diminishes his office, while undermining the discourse.
As for the Minority Leader's hopes for a "fresh start," that's not a bad idea. Maybe he can help get the president's second term off to a good start by distancing himself from his own campaign's offensive fundraising messages.