In stepping down from leadership, Mitch McConnell has a chance to redeem himself | Opinion

It’s too bad that U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell will resign as Senate Republican Leader just as he was starting to act in the best interest of the United States.

The creator of today’s dysfunctional Supreme Court — who also upended our electoral system and democracy itself with the Citizens United case in 2010 — has been a stalwart defender of Ukraine and America’s place in the world.

He most recently managed to cobble together 22 Senate votes for the most recent aid package for Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

As he said in an OpEd in these pages, “backing down from our duty to preserve American strength, security, and peace will only embolden our enemies and greenlight future acts of force against America and our allies.”

McConnell, 82, went on to blame President Joe Biden for America’s lack of resolve, of course, even as he tried to pry his fellow Congressman out of the clutches of former President Donald Trump. It is Trump who has done the most to convince Republicans that we should support Putin’s murderous regime rather than Ukraine.

McConnell also stood up to Trump by denouncing his role in Jan. 6, although with far less resolve, which hurt him politically with his party. Those actions but will bring him grudging and gradual respect when history gets its turn to judge him. But in the end, even McConnell’s vaunted political prowess was not enough to stop the insanity of MAGA world.

With three years left in his term, McConnell will still be a powerful force in Washington. Maybe in his swan song, he can focus less on personal power and more on Kentucky, which after nearly 40 years of his leadership is still one of the sickest, poorest states in the country.

In his announcement Wednesday, McConnell said his recent health struggles were not part of his decision to step down from leadership. That’s unfortunate. As this paper has said before, it would be better if politicians like Dianne Feinstein and McConnell, and even Joe Biden, would step down before their best days are over, making room for younger and more robust leadership. Let’s hope that he will retire at the end of his term, rather than trying to break records for the oldest serving senator.

Instead McConnell said the death of his sister-in-law earlier this month had influenced his decision, saying “The end of my contributions are closer than I’d prefer.”

And yet McConnell’s biggest and most controversial actions — from reshaping the Supreme Court to allowing dark money to swamp our political system — will last long after he is retired. In particular, the Supreme Court’s decision to hear Trump’s appeal over whether he is immune from prosecution could have have frightening implications for the future.

We hope in the last three years of his work in Washington, D.C., he will turn his political power and institutional knowledge away from gamesmanship and toward moving Kentucky and the nation forward. That’s what will most help both his constituents and burnish his legacy in the years ahead.