There's always something special about hot-mic incidents. Most political figures, by the time they've risen to a certain level of prominence, tend to be guarded, scripted, and careful to stay on-message. When there's a live microphone picking up their unvarnished comments, it offers the rest of us a peek behind the curtain.
And now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have joined the club.
For those who can't watch clips online, here's the transcript:
Paul: "Do you have a second?"
McConnell: "I'm all wired up here, um."
Paul: "I just did CNN and I just go over and over again, 'We're willing to compromise. 'We're willing to negotiate.' I think, I don't think [Democrats] poll tested 'we won't negotiate.' I think it's awful for them to say that over and over again."
McConnell: "Yeah, I do too and I, and I just came back from that two-hour meeting with them and that was, and that was basically the same view privately as it was publically."
Paul: "I think if we keep saying, 'We wanted to defund it. We fought for that and now we're willing to compromise on this', I think they can't, we're gonna, I think, well I know we don't want to be here, but we're gonna win this, I think."
Let's unpack this a bit.
First, to hear Paul tell it, this fight ultimately boils down to talking points. If Republicans stick to the phrases Paul likes, maybe they'll "win this." Whether those talking points are coherent or accurate apparently doesn't much matter.
Second, and probably more amusing, is McConnell complaining that Democrats are saying in private what they're saying in public. Well, sure, of course they are.
Republicans may be so caught up in their own nonsense that they've lost sight of the basics, but when it comes to their government shutdown, there's nothing left to "negotiate" -- both sides already agree on identical spending levels. The government's closed, not because Democrats are stubborn, but because Republicans insist on trying to gut the Affordable Care Act.
McConnell and Paul may not understand this, but when they say they're "willing to compromise," they're referring to an inherently ridiculous posture -- they want to take away health care benefits from millions of Americans, but they'll settle for taking health care benefits from fewer Americans.
See how reasonable they are?