McConnell aide reveals boss's impotence

Jesse Benton speaks out about his hurtful comments towards his boss, and reveals the latter's powerlessness

Published August 12, 2013 3:29PM (EDT)

Local media in Kentucky are following up on the cring-inducing story of Mitch McConnell's conservative campaign chief, who is still on the job despite getting caught on tape saying he was "holding his nose" for a couple years to reelect the Senate minority leader.

I've seen a few people focusing on Benton's sad but humanizing comment on what must have been a very tough conversation with McConnell: "He wasn't angry, he wasn't upset, but I could see the hurt in his eyes."

But for my money, the really revealing moment comes here, where he explains why the campaign released a photo of McConnell and Benton making light of the comment: "I think we were trying to have some fun and crack a smile on what was a tough day ..."

Maybe it's just a heartwarming tale of a leader trying to boost his sidekick's morale. But intentionally or not it underscores the point that McConnell needs Benton more than Benton needs McConnell. The broader public doesn't care if a staff row has left campaign staffers feeling down in the dumps. But the GOP right does (remember, Benton is a Ron and Rand Paul guy). And McConnell can't be seen -- or even assumed -- to be throwing one of their own under the bus.

By Brian Beutler

Brian Beutler is Salon's political writer. Email him at and follow him on Twitter at @brianbeutler.

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2014 Elections Jesse Benton Kentucky Mitch Mcconnell Rand Paul Ron Paul Tea Party