Friday, May 21, 2010
Steak dinner with Mitch McConnell
Scene: Wednesday night. The day after the primary election. An elegant, linen-tablecloth steak house within the Washington DC beltway. Waiters hustle between tables. The din of clinking glasses and dinnerware fill the air. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sits in a booth to one side of the large dining room. A cloth napkin rests in his lap. He primly slices a small morsel from the rib-eye steak on the plate before him, lays the steak knife across the lip, then raises the fork to his mouth. He chews deliberately, places the fork on his plate, then raises the napkin to dab at the corners of his mouth. Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner emerges from the crowd milling in the dining room, apple martini in hand, and slides down into the seat across from McConnell.
Boehner: Hell of a week, eh, Mitch?
McConnell: I don't recall inviting you to sit.
Boehner: Tough break, about Grayson, Mitch. Your own protégé. Trey Grayson was the guy you were gonna hand it all over to when you called it quits. And they rejected him like a bad kidney. [He shakes his head, takes a pull off his martini, winks, and raises his glass to McConnell.] You'll get 'em next time.
[McConnell picks up knife and fork and undertakes to slice another bite off his steak. He keeps his eyes on his plate.]
Boehner: I mean, talk about ingratitude! After all you've done for Kentucky, a bunch o' tea-party hicks go and choose Ron Paul's boy. Rand Paul instead of a good, solid McConnell Republican like Trey Grayson! How's that for appreciation? All those years you spent kissing Bill Frist's ass and this is the thanks you get? I tell ya, if I were you, I'd hold a press conference. I'd have a thing or two to say about some people.
[McConnell chews silently. He doesn't look up.]
Boehner [singing]: Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining; Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue...
McConnell [slamming his fist on the table]: Listen to me, you glorified golf caddy! You shut your trap, do you hear me? You blew a slam dunk in Pennsylvania twelve! You and Michael Steele squawking about how that race was going to send a signal to the White House. You had Cantor out there shooting his mouth off about a GOP House in November! Well let me tell you something, you inebriated jack-o-lantern: While you were getting railroaded by Nancy Pelosi on health care reform, I was holding my caucus together. I took all the heat for that! I don't whine! I fight!
[He holds Boehner's eye for a moment, then drops his gaze back to his plate. He picks up his utensils and cuts daintily at his steak.]
Boehner [wryly]: But you still lost, didn't you?
[Enter Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown.]
Brown: Oh, hello, Mitch, John. I didn't see you sitting here.
Boehner: That's alright, Scott. Mitch and I were just remembering the good old days. Isn't that right, Mitch?
McConnell [ignoring Boehner]: Scott, sit down, will you? I'd like to talk to you about our strategy for blocking Chris Dodd's financial reform bill.
[A din arises, near the entrance to the dining room. Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak has entered and is being warmly congratulated by the clientele for his primary victory over Arlen Specter.]
Boehner: Get a load of those jokers! If there's anything worse than a poor loser, it's a poor winner, eh, Mitch? Say, isn't that Harry Reid over there?
Brown: Yeah. Yeah, that's Harry alright. Say, listen, Mitch, have your chief call my office and we'll set up a meeting. I've gotta go talk to Harry for a minute. [He hurries away, toward the crowd of partying Democrats.]
[McConnell drops his eyes to his plate and goes back to eating his steak. He takes small bites, chews deliberately. Boehner smiles, loosely. He takes a long slow pull from his drink. Over the rim of his glass, he watches McConnell chew.]
Boehner: Anyway, Mitch, don't take it so hard. You've been in this game long enough to know that it goes in cycles. Wheel spins, you're on top; spins again, you're underneath.
Boehner: What was that?
McConnell [softly]: I said kiss my ass, you son of a bitch.
Boehner [standing up to leave]: You know what your problem is, Mitch? [He throws his head back, empties his glass and smacks it down on the table.] You don't know when to laugh.