Sen. McConnell Repeatedly Dodges Questions About Potential Government Shutdown

January 31, 2011 12:03 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

During an interview last week on MSNBC, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a rare moment of straight talk about GOP messaging. Asked about his devotion to pre-packaged sound bites, McConnell explained, "I think in order to drive any message home, repetition's a good idea."

But there's a difference between repeating a genuine argument and what Republicans often do — relying on dishonest talking points or reciting empty catch phrases to avoid answering difficult questions. Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press yesterday, McConnell provided an example of the latter, doggedly dodging questions about a potential government shutdown by repeating almost identical versions of the same non-answer.

GREGORY: Is the prospect of a government shutdown over any potential fight over spending, is that an option in your mind? Is it a viable alternative?

McCONNELL: We, we have two opportunities coming up. We have the continuing resolution on March 4th, and then the president has asked us to raise the debt ceiling. So we have two opportunities here to do something important for this country on the issue of spending and debt. We ought not to lose that opportunity. The president ought to work with us on both those occasions to address this important issue.

GREGORY: Is a government shutdown a viable alternative in your mind?

McCONNELL: As I said, we have two opportunities, opportunities...both the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling, to try to accomplish something on a bipartisan basis on both our short term debt and our long-term unfunded liability.

GREGORY: But you won't take shutdown off the table if it comes to that?

McCONNELL: We have two opportunities to do something important for the country on spending and debt. We ought not to miss this opportunity. The president ought to step up to the plate with us and tackle it together.

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Reciting hollow talking points may not help Republicans look serious, but that doesn't seem to bother the pull-string politicians in the GOP. As Steve Benen recently wrote, "they know with certainty that if they repeat the same phrases over and over again, the media will use them and the public will hear them. It's why they invest far more energy in talking points and bumper-sticker slogans than they do actual policy proposals."

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