Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suddenly stopped speaking during a weekly Republican leadership news conference Wednesday afternoon, appearing to freeze, and then went silent and was walked away.
McConnell, R-Ky., had been making his opening remarks about an annual defense policy bill when he stopped talking. He was silent for 19 seconds. His Republican colleagues asked whether he was OK, and a top McConnell deputy, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, a physician, escorted McConnell, 81, away from the cameras and reporters.
Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa made a hand gesture that initially appeared to resemble the sign of the cross. Her office later clarified that she was motioning for Senate Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota.
Dr. Corey Abair of the CBS affiliate in Slidell, Louisiana on Wednesday explained
So at this point what he probably had is called a TIA or transient ischemic attack. It's like of like a mini stroke but the other thing he could have had is what is called an "absent seizure" and that's a seizure like a staring spell and it's not a full seizure where you shake. It is just something where you kind of tune out for about three to four seconds and then you come right back.
The fact that he's back and they didn't rush him to the hospital thinking that he may have had a stroke means it may been an absent seizure.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, absent "seizures happen suddenly, without warning, usually lasting fewer than 20 seconds, and are more common in children than adults." Even if McConnell did not suffer this, however, he may have suffered from a different kind of seizure. Or he may have had a mini-stroke.
If Republicans are smart- as they usually are- we will never know. Tactically, the wise move is not to send McConnell to the hospital or if they do, simply refuse to release the diagnosis or lie about it.
It worked for Donald Trump. Recall when in 2018 presidential physician Ronny Jackson "gushed about President Donald Trump’s health during a briefing before the White House press corps on Tuesday, touting the President’s 'good genes,' how he did 'exceedingly well' on his cognitive test and his 'excellent' cardiac health." He maintained "it's just the way God made him." Jackson was later found to have " berated employees, made sexual comments about a female subordinate, and violated the policy for drinking alcohol on a presidential trip."
In the interim, Jackson became a United States Representative. Trump now is the leading candidate for the GOP nomination to serve another term as President, and any comparisons to McConnell include the names of Joe Biden, Dianne Feinstein, and John Fetterman with nary a word about Trump. The "it's not the crime, it's the cover up" bromide is turned on its head.
Democratic colleagues of McConnell, who also assure us that GOP senators don't like Donald Trump but must cater to an irrational voter base, won't question the Minority Leader's health. Neither will most MSNBC commentators. A few hours after the incident, Nicole Wallace, probably the second most popular personality on cable television's liberal, non-progressive network, remarked "I wish him well. I wish no ill health on any human being in the arena or outside of it. And if this were Joe Biden, there would be impeachment proceedings underway for sentence interruptus.”
There may be something in between calling for the impeachment of Mitch McConnell and letting him slide by wishing him well and moving on to Wallace's next daily, two-hour episode of "How Satanic Donald Trump Ruined a Great Republican Party." (Actually, Wallace has a little perspective; colleague Joe Scarborough, none.)
Wallace and others could continue self-affirming virtue signaling or instead actually commit journalism, beginning with running the full clip of the 20-second period in which Minority Leader McConnell stood silent. Earth to Wallace: this is what Fox News would do if Joe Biden had suffered a setback and stopped talking or moving for 20 seconds. The President's approval rating would plummet.
Fox News still can't get enough of video of Joe Biden recently tripping over a sandbag left on the stage at the Air Force Academy graduation by the elite Secret Service. Merely overlooked, of course.
If Republicans bury this incident, Democratic politicos should take a take a page from the GOP's playbook. If your loved one, or your liked one, suffered an episode similar to the one experienced by McConnell, you'd take him or her to a medical facility. If the GOP announces that McConnell has seen qualified medical personnel, the Senator would deserve sympathy and support from everyone. In the absence of that, it's a serious and significant cover-up and should be treated as such.