U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the most phlegmatic man in American politics, rarely gets riled up. But on Monday, the Senate majority leader let it rip in defense of his reputation, and we’re glad he did.

McConnell was responding to a Democratic media onslaught seeking to portray the defense hawk as a toady for Russia. His offense is opposing some Democratic proposals to protect the 2020 election from foreign meddling. In particular, he opposes attempts to nationalize election rules and ballot procedures that have been historically managed by the states. This is his long-held position and makes sense since a national system would be easier to hack than the systems of 50 states.

But McConnell is running for reelection next year, and the left needs a villain for the failure of special counsel Robert Mueller to find collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. Enter #MoscowMitch, the hashtag that appeared on Twitter and was immediately picked up across the Democratic media landscape.

“It started with the angry lies on MSNBC. The host lied and said that I’ve dismissed Russia’s interference in our 2016 election as, quote, a ‘hoax.’ Of course I’ve never said any such thing,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “A few hours later came The Washington Post column. It was authored by Dana Milbank, a pundit who spent much of the Obama administration carrying water for its failed foreign policies and excusing President Obama’s weakness on Russia.”

The column was headlined, “Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset,” which the senator rightly called “a shameful smear.”

The truth is that McConnell has been far tougher on Vladimir Putin than most Democrats were across the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations. He pushed for tougher sanctions on Russia than the Obama crowd wanted and he supported the Magnitsky Act that has allowed the U.S. to sanction Putin’s cronies. He has also supported the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian meddling in 2016.

Republicans can’t count on a media phalanx to defend them from unfair attacks, so like McConnell they have to do it themselves.

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