Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 25, 2010

THE VALUE OF MCCONNELL'S OCCASIONAL CANDOR.... For all of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) many faults, he has one especially interesting habit. Once in a while, for no apparent reason, McConnell will say what he's actually thinking, giving us fairly valuable insights into his plans and motivations.

This isn't to say he's honest -- McConnell has repeatedly proven he isn't -- but rather, that he has occasional flashes of candor. McConnell conceded in August, for example, that as far as he's concerned, literally every idea considered by the Senate in the next Congress "is going to have to be center-right," even if there's a Democratic majority.

In March, McConnell acknowledged the entire basis for his health care strategy, explaining that he demanded unanimous GOP opposition, even to ideas Republicans liked, as a way of making reform unpopular. The strategy had nothing to do with policy or actually helping people, and everything to do with denying Democrats a victory.

And McConnell was candid once more in a new interview with National Journal, explaining what he sees as his "single most important" task in the near future.

"[W]e need to treat this election as the first step in retaking the government. We need to say to everyone on Election Day, 'Those of you who helped make this a good day, you need to go out and help us finish the job.' [...]

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.... Our single biggest political goal is to give our nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful."

This wasn't just some throwaway line -- McConnell is explaining, on the record, how he intends to approach the policymaking process in 2011 and 2012. And as far as the Republicans' Senate leader is concerned, all of his efforts will be built around destruction.

It's tempting to think responsible lawmakers, when asked about their top goals, would talk about job creation, national security, immigration policy, energy, etc. But not Mitch McConnell. He sees destroying the president of the United States in the midst of multiple crises as his "single most important" goal. This is what the administration is supposed to negotiate with next year.

Even Joe Scarborough characterized McConnell's comments as "embarrassing" and "pathetic." He's right.

This comes, by the way, on the heels of several other high-profile Republicans admitting last week that they have no intention of compromising with the White House on anything.

The obvious takeaway here is that GOP leaders have literally no interest in actually solving problems or passing legislation. None. But the larger truth is that President Obama, who's spoken a bit lately about the need for "humility," needs to realize that Republican obstinacy and extremist tactics aren't going to get better after the midterms; they're going to get worse.

McConnell and his cohorts have made abundantly clear that Americans' welfare and the nation's future pale in comparison to the Republican quest for power. The president stands in the way. If he's not prepared for what they intend to bring, the showdown isn't going to go well.

Steve Benen 1:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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JA WOHL Und if ve get to smash the windows of a few democrats, gays, and poor people so much the better.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on October 25, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

So much for Obama's plan to re-establish bipartisanship as his legacy. I hope he doesn't throw away the next two years on a fool's errand.

Posted by: jeri on October 25, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

You're misreading how the press will take this.

It will be an accepted fact this President stands in the way of this countries future and Republicans are on the side of real American's to get him out of the way.

It's what they believe to the bone I think. So yeah, Obama would be an idiot to further talk about being bi-partisan.

That word is non existent to the current crop of Republican leadership and they obviously have ZERO qualms about advertising it.

Posted by: mikefromArlington on October 25, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

President Obama will be spending the evening about a mile from my home in RI, at a fundraiser for a guy who's going to win by double digits next week.

So no, I'm not sure he's prepared for what's coming.

Posted by: dr. bloor on October 25, 2010 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

If he's not prepared for what they intend to bring, the showdown isn't going to go well.

If the President follows his historical pattern and he attempts to find common ground with these people instead of meeting their challenge with a fierce and equally uncompromising opposition, then his administration should be destroyed.

As long as the leader of the Democratic Party continues to act like a punk, we won't be able to motivate and organize a progressive challenge to the GOP.

Posted by: s9 on October 25, 2010 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

"say it isn't so, Joe"...

It's been a priority for the rich to sink this republic. Between sending the work force, you know, the ones who actually bought the products they were fashioning, overseas to increase profit margins, to offshore tax havens to secure those increased profits didn't get returned to the "Homeland" to lining the pockets of the Bitch McConnels and Boners to take care of the political side and the SCOTS flunkies like Scalia and Thomas to cover the judicial angle to get laws passed to buy elections, and nihilists like Murdoch to the take-over of the mass media, i'd say it's pretty much over. R.I.P. America...

Posted by: stevio on October 25, 2010 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president"

well, when he's right (rare as that is) he's right. Getting Obama out of the whitehouse should be the number 1 political goal since he's personally standing in the way of us making any actual headway on just about every issue. Naturally I'd prefer the dems simply nominate someone else in 2012, but I somehow doubt they'll do that, what with the obot contingent still so strong.

Posted by: Tlaloc on October 25, 2010 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Head over to Firebag were your silly crap will be honored.

Posted by: KK on October 25, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of "candor..."


I guess he forgot that RI went 2/3 for Obama...
He was losing ground to Chaffee anyway.
Somehow i think he's not going to pull his spots in which he stands behind Bill while Bill extols him mas the greatest potential governor since Roger Williams.

Posted by: efgoldman on October 25, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

From the desk of David Broeder:

Regardless of anything that Mitch McConnell says, it will be the fault of Obama and the democrats that there is not bipartisanship during the period between this election and when President Palin takes the oath of office on January 20, 2013.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on October 25, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

" McConnell is explaining, on the record, how he intends to approach the policymaking process in 2011 and 2012"

Sounds like a gauntlet to me.

And I fear the Democratic response will be, "Oh dear, you've dropped your glove! Here, let me pick it up for you. And bend over, to do it. . ."

Posted by: DAY on October 25, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP's id and ego are virtually indistinguishable now. I think right-wing media finally succeeded. There's no longer a conservative elite interested in policy and ideas. And there's no long a party apparatus concerned about governance. Today, it's Culture War, Every Day, plundering and pillaging for its own sake. Can the republic survive with one its two major political parties captured by nihilists?


Posted by: walt on October 25, 2010 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

I see a Second Civil War taking shape......

Posted by: Sam Simple on October 25, 2010 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

You might as well bookmark this post right now. You'll be using it a lot for the next two years.

Posted by: danimal on October 25, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

The one good piece of advice I read today was 'See who big oil, insurance companies and the big banks are funding, and those are the people that do not care about you!
For the faint hearted, if you do not support the dems this time you will have only yourself to blame now that elections can be bought by a few of the richest Americans, they want to get richer, the jobs will continue to go overseas and we will continue on the road to being slaves of the corporations.

Posted by: js on October 25, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

If someone had said to me in 2002, "George Bush and Dick Cheney have been an mitigated disaster for the Country. We need to stop them. Our primary goal in 2002 is to elect Democrats to Congress, stop the Bush-Cheney agenda, and elect a Democrat in 2004" I would not have blinked.

Republicans want what I do not want. I have no qualms about doing whatever is possible to thwart their agenda.

Similarly, I do not blame them for doing everything in their power to thwart a liberal agenda (although I find their characterization of Obama as a liberal, if not socialist, to be comically absurd). I do not blame them for wanting to elect a Republican president.

This is how politics is supposed to work. Different constituencies battle to determine the agenda. No apologies are necessary.

It is a complete fiction -- and an achilles heel of Democrats -- to believe that we are all working together toward common goals and we just cant agree on how to get there.

No. We don't share common goals.

Posted by: square1 on October 25, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

And yet in today's NYT, we see people around Obama telling us how he will 'look for cooperation' because the GOP 'might be more ready for compromise' and because 'the president has the responsibility to change the tone.' Is this guy truly this clueless? I mean, really. Could this be true, or is it just more public-consumption nonsense? Is Obama a masochist?

Posted by: Nick in PA on October 25, 2010 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

I think Obama is slier and smarter politically than anyone ever gives him credit for.

Before he took office, had the Republicans really shown themselves--except in ridiculous extreme cases like Schiavo--what retrograde sleazebags they are? they are braying like asses openly about how bankrupt, power-seeking and clueless about what is good for the country they are. Simply because they believe that EVERYONE is like them: they find a black president to be inconceivable, and they think all white people are on their side.

Despite the approval ratings, which are dragged down in Obama's case by solid Southern opposition.

Posted by: jjm on October 25, 2010 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

That's why it doesn't matter how whacky, how uninformed, how unqualified a Republican candidate is at this election - as long as they're the 'anti-Obama' they're OK for McConnell and right-wing voters.
Nothing else matters...nothing.

Posted by: thebigragu on October 25, 2010 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

people don't care steve, they just don't. But by all means, keep hysterically shrieking into the wind. You are our moral Harpy. Maybe if you hold your breath, people outside of DC and/or people other than readers of this blog might see what they are doing and even more to the point, might give a shit. But I doubt it. This country is doomed and it's directly attributable to the pussies in the media the last 10 years. Refusing to stand up to the GOP bullshit. But keep shrieking beautiful harpy, keep shrieking. I'm sure it's helping.

Posted by: polldancer on October 25, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

No, the country is not doomed. We have weathered storms like this before. One third of Colonists did not want to secede from England. One third of Americans did not want to give up owning slaves. One third of Americans worried about Communists in the entertainment business and the State Department.

It doesn't matter. The vast sweep of history shows that people will gain more rights, more opportunity, and more support for realizing their full potential. Yes, there are people who'd like history to move backwards, but that doesn't mean they will prevail. All they have ever been able to do is hold back the tide of progress.

That is all they will ever be able to do.

Just keep thinking, talking, marching, voting, and working for a better future. Surrender is not an option.

Posted by: Robert Moskowitz on October 25, 2010 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

I think it depends on the people walt weather this country makes it or not. One party is defenitely bought and paid for, and don't tell me boath parties are the same I ve been hearing that kabuki all my life. Believe me it aint so. The repugs want to take us down the same old road.

Posted by: jugheadjack on October 25, 2010 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

I think Obama is slier and smarter politically than anyone ever gives him credit for.

I don't believe this for a second. Obama was handed a political gift: The opposition party had thoroughly discredited itself over the past 8+ years.

All Obama had to do was stand tall and tell the GOP to GTFOOTW. One of two things would have occurred. If the GOP's ranks broke, the Dems would have passed a truly progressive package of legislation and Obama's fortunes would only have been interrupted by the Constitutional bar to serving more than 2 terms. Alternatively, the GOP could have held a "stop Obama" line. But if Obama were using the bully pulpit to truly smash the GOP for getting in the way of financial reform, health care reform, renewable energy, etc. then the GOP would have gotten trashed by the public and the Dems would be looking to pick up seats in the mid-terms.

Instead, Obama has to hope that in 2012 the GOP nominates someone truly unelectable, like Palin, rather than someone who is less scary, like Romney, or even Pawlenty.

Posted by: square1 on October 25, 2010 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

A majority of the American people say that they want "bipartisan" solutions to problems. And a fair number blame Obama and the Democrats for failing to deliver on that vision - egged on by the David Broders of the world, as well as the GOP's propaganda machine.

Look ... as a DC veteran, I can tell you that the Obama administration says this stuff because it is expected - not because it is a true vision of how they expect things to be, or how they intend to approach the opposition. They will publicly have a hand extended. And when the crazies in the GOP slap that hand away and seek conflict and threaten to shut the government down ... it will underline the proposition.

If the Obama administration didn't have a clear-eyed view of their opposition (and of the weaknesses and strengths in their own caucus), they would not have accomplished much during the last two years. And they DID ... despite the GOP's efforts to shut the legislative branch down and filibuster every major bill passing through the Senate (as well as virtually all of the executive branch nominees).

That effectiveness is the whole reason why the GOP is freaked out, and bent on revenge. Obama didn't get punked by them. And he did it with a smile, instead of furrowing his brow and huddling in the White House like Jimmy Carter.


Posted by: Bokonon on October 25, 2010 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Square1 ... Obama HAS been using the bully pulpit to say those things.

Problem is? Our corporate media hasn't been reporting it. They no longer give coverage to Presidential speeches, and frequently have their commenters talk right over the President's words.

Instead, the media have deliberately chosen to cover the opposition (and the Tea Partiers in particular).

Any time that Sarah Palin's tweets and Facebook postings are given equal or better time to the President - as they are every single day on MSNBC, to say nothing of Fox - you know that the media is playing games.

Posted by: Bokonon on October 25, 2010 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

It may be that, measured by actual results, Obama has been more effective than many of us would give him credit for.

But what I do not understand is the complete lack of assertive rhetoric, delivered consistently and continuously.

Obama is the only one with the bully pulpit, with the ability to say - and to have it reported - that the GOP has no interest in the wellbeing of the country as a whole, and with an inexhaustible litany of facts to back him up.

Posted by: PowerOfX on October 25, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Senator McConnel's remarks demonstrate how little Republicans are interested in governing for America's best interests. Rather than country first, their agenda is Republicans first. So be it.
This should provide campaign fodder to rally the country against Republicans. Our president should be saying at every campaign stop that he reached out his hand to work with Republicans, but on every piece of legislation they fought partisan battles ignoring the needs of America. If you want to put our country in a positive direction, vote Democratic! If you love soaring deficits and middle class jobs shipped overseas, then vote Republican!

Posted by: Brian from Seattle on October 25, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

That effectiveness is the whole reason why the GOP is freaked out, and bent on revenge. Obama didn't get punked by them. And he did it with a smile, instead of furrowing his brow and huddling in the White House like Jimmy Carter.


Any time that Sarah Palin's tweets and Facebook postings are given equal or better time to the President - as they are every single day on MSNBC, to say nothing of Fox - you know that the media is playing games.

yes, also.
every time i hear that woman on the teevee (for the second it takes to find the mute button) i wonder why the hell i'm supposed to care about any of the inarticulate drivel which falls out of her mouth (or onto her Facebook and Twitter). who is she again? oh, right, failed VP candidate half term governor of a state with a miniscule population and a socialist state government. yup, that makes her an authority on nothing.

Posted by: els on October 25, 2010 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

"I see a Second Civil War taking shape......"

Sam Simple

No Sam we have a new interpreation of the Constitution. Armed insurrection is no longer treason and rebellion, it's just an exercise of our '2nd Amendment Rights'. I had an urge to exercise mine real soon, but I am resisting the impulse.

Posted by: robert on October 25, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, bokonon. Obama did not use the bully pulpit and is not now using the bully pulpit.

On the contrary, Obama has bent over backwards to give credence to the arguments of his critics.

When Palin whined about "death panels", Democrats cut out end-of-life counseling. When Joe Wilson screamed "You Lie!" Democrats changed the bill.

Over and over and over, Obama has spoken about reaching out "to his friends across the aisle" and praised bipartisan solutions, even when GOP solutions would be unmitigated disasters.

The idea that there is some message that Obama has been trying to get out and the media won't let him do it is a joke. The public knows Obama's message. His message is that he can work with Republicans. His message sucks.

Even now, Obama talks about working with Republicans after the midterms. Why should any disappointed Democrat come out to vote when Obama is basically saying that Republicans arent so bad?

Posted by: square1 on October 25, 2010 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

Meh. This is exactly what the Republicans did to Clinton. Exactly. They banked everything on beating him in 1996, even throwing their iconic War Hero at him as the Republican nominee. Alas, what they got, even after impeachment, was a Clinton who would have won a third term if he'd been eligilble for one. The GOP can't get out of its own way for long term stupidity.

Posted by: thymezone on October 25, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Of course Obama knows the GOP won't play ball, you can debate the political strategy of pretending like bi-partisanship is possible to low information independent voters, but him and his advisers aren't idiots.

I think he believes, as do I that people's perception of him, from his allies and political enemies is mainly based on current economic conditions. If and when the economy turns Obama will be well-positioned to say, "While I was bringing the economy out of the doldrums they created, I got zero help from them".

Right now that argument might be percieved as weak or ineffective but if the economy turns it will be a devestating argument in 2012, and the same people who are talking about how naive he is will be marveling at his cool-headedness and magnanimity in the face of obstruction.

Posted by: Archon on October 25, 2010 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK



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