In terms of pure, raw, utterly shameless cynicism, there is no figure in American public life who rivals Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. And the Kentucky Republican’s latest comments about the possibility of an infrastructure deal are a reminder of one of his most devious tricks.

On Wednesday afternoon, President Biden met with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the lead Republican negotiating with the White House over such a deal. This comes after Capito’s last offer was a plan mostly paid for by repurposed covid-19 relief funds, which ensured it will be a nonstarter with Democrats.

Yet McConnell wants you to believe that he really, truly, absolutely hopes a bipartisan deal comes together. No, really, he totally does!

To embroider this impression, he told reporters in Kentucky that he spoke to Capito before the meeting, adding: “I’m hoping for the best, that we can actually reach a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure.”

As Politico archly put it, progressives are reading this as “evidence there will never be any deal — only more delay.”

And of course that’s exactly the right reading. McConnell isn’t just trying to create the impression that the GOP Senate caucus wants a deal. He’s also trying to get Democrats to keep chasing after this mirage, to delay as long as possible the most likely outcome, that Senate Democrats will act alone on infrastructure via a simple majority “reconciliation” vote.

We’ve seen this again and again. Back in mid-May, McConnell offered similar expressions of pretend-optimism, insisting he was convinced that “both sides” want a deal. Democrats want this, he said, because in his estimation they didn’t have 50 votes to do a big package all by reconciliation, giving a deal a “good chance.”

The idea that McConnell was hopeful about a bipartisan deal being reached in the event that Democrats don’t have the votes to do this themselves is just comical. Failure here by Biden and Democrats is exactly what McConnell wants. It would, he hopes, breed public distrust in government and the party in power, making it easier for Republicans to win the midterms.

We’ve seen this playbook from McConnell for many, many years. In fact, McConnell openly explained exactly how this works back in 2011.

And indeed, McConnell himself confirmed in early May that he’s using this playbook against Biden, declaring that “100 percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.” Apparently McConnell figured you’d forget all about this when he declared his faux-optimism about a deal.

We’ve seen this on other fronts as well. A couple of weeks ago, McConnell piously claimed he wanted to read the “fine print” on the bill creating the commission examining the Jan. 6 insurrection, feigning open-mindedness before announcing his opposition barely 24 hours later.

We then learned he’d privately urged GOP senators to oppose the commission as a “personal favor” to him, which is exactly what it was, given that not having a commission will make it easier for him to recapture power next year.

When McConnell pretended to be open to the commission, he apparently figured you’d forget that he pulled the same stunt during then-President Donald Trump’s (second) impeachment. In January, he put on a great show of pretending to be open to voting for conviction. Amazingly, news organizations took this at face value, even though everyone knew it was utter nonsense.

One of the strangest things about McConnell is that he is often brazenly open about exactly what he is up to, even as he is plainly calculating that you’ll be snookered by it all the same. It’s almost as if he’s laughing in all of our faces. Hopefully Democrats will get the joke and move on already.

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