The Karate Kid, as portrayed by actor Ralph Macchio, once uttered what has to be the truest of political truisms: "What goes around, comes around." And right now, for the newly crowned Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, it's coming around with a vengeance.
McConnell, who is a bit too much of a political caricature to have ever been a serious contender for the presidency, instead has long had a goal of becoming the leader of the majority party in the Senate. He was first elected to the Senate more than thirty years ago, in 1984, and has been slowly working his way to the top by ingratiating himself with his fellow Republican senators ever since. Much of that ingratiation took place with the liberal distribution of Kentucky tobacco money into the campaign coffers of Republican senate candidates during his tenure as head of the GOP's National Senate Campaign Committee.
McConnell slowly and steadily built a reputation as a man who had the ability to control others and get things done. He was a leader.
But that shiny image of an absolute leader began to crack around 2010. McConnell decided that his fellow Republican senator from Kentucky, Jim Bunning, was so politically weak that he would lose the seat to the Democrats. McConnell, whom Bunning famously referred to as a "control freak," was eventually instrumental in nudging Bunning out of the race.
McConnell then set about trying to anoint Bunning's replacement. His preferred candidate was Kentucky's Secretary of State, Trey Grayson, a Harvard educated lawyer who should have, with Mitch's blessing, easily won the race. But it wasn't that simple. An opthamologist from Bowling Green entered the primary race against Grayson and eventually won. That young upstart who dared to step on the old Kentucky shoes of Mitch McConnell was Rand Paul, the son of the perennial Libertarian and Republican presidential candidate, Ron Paul.
Mitch McConnell, a man who was not accustomed to losing anything, eventually had to lick his wounds and endorse Rand Paul in the general election - another election which Paul won handily.
It was in that same year that McConnell began to really trumpet his opposition President Obama. After the election of many tea-baggers in 2010, McConnell tried to take control of their unrestrained racism and political anger by declaring that the Republican Party was focused on opposing the Obama agenda and making him a one-term president. McConnell, the minority (Republican) leader in the Senate, worked from that day forward to thwart everything that President Obama tried to accomplish. He and House Speaker John Boehner put a high-gloss shine on the fine art of political obstruction.
Mitch McConnell faced his own tea-bagger opposition in his 2014 primary race to maintain his Senate seat, and then had a fairly serious Democratic opponent in the general election - but the old turtle prevailed, and in January of 2015 he realized his ultimate political ambition when his party selected him at the Majority Leader of the United States Senate.
Life should have been sweet from there on out, but McConnell quickly got a serious taste of his own medicine when some members of his the Republican caucus began setting their own agendas and working aggressively to thwart his. And it was soon apparent that the biggest pain in Mitch's flabby old butt was going to be his fellow senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul.
Rand Paul arrived in Washington D.C. thinking he was Jimmy Stewart. The dapper politician was going to minimize the reach of government and be a faithful guardian of our civil liberties. In 2013, he captured national press attention when he filibustered for thirteen hours on the government's use of drones for spying and killing. In 2015, he became the second Republican to announce his candidacy for the presidency, a candidacy which Mitch McConnell later endorsed. (Whatever it takes to get him out of the Senate, eh Mitch?)
This week Senator Paul has been in the news again. Senator McConnell, in an effort to get the Patriot Act renewed, stalled moving it to the Senate floor until the last minute - feeling that would put the Senate in a position where they must get it passed rather than sit around debating the bill. But instead of doing McConnell's bidding, one senator vowed to stall and kill the bill - at least temporarily. That senator? Rand Paul of Kentucky.
McConnell spent several years taking advantage of the malcontents in the Senate as he focused on trying to limit or destroy Obama's presidency - and now the malcontents are beginning to feed on him.
It's coming around, Mitch! It's coming around! And how sweet it is!