Political Animal


June 25, 2011 10:45 AM Is the answer to the ‘sabotage’ question ‘obvious’?

By Steve Benen

Seven months after raising the specter of Republicans trying to hurt the economy on purpose, I can’t help but notice the “sabotage” question appears to be picking up some steam.

Just this month, some high-profile, mainstream pundits have begun exploring the issue, and just this week, two of Congress’ most powerful Democrats broached the same subject.

Yesterday, Michael Tomasky went even further, arguing that Democrats should start “saying openly what has been clear for months or even years now — that as long as economic recovery would work to the political benefit of Barack Obama, the Republicans have been, are, and will be in favor of sabotaging the economy.” Tomasky added this is “obvious.”

The point isn’t to question Republicans’ bizarre priorities or values; the point is to make economic argument clear to the public. Too many bemoan a vague “lack of political will” or “absence of leadership” as the reason so little gets done. Those people are wrong.

Washington is a city of conspiracies, but far and away the most pernicious one is the fiction, in which one must participate if one wants to be regarded as a “serious” person, that both parties are more or less equally to blame for the present malfunctioning of our democracy. […]

Nonsense. There’s nothing vague about it. It’s crystal clear. We can’t do these things because of the extreme nature of the Republican Party and the right-wing noise machine that enforces such rigid ideological purity. Period and end of story.

Tomasky added that he suspects many people know this “deep down,” but bite their tongue because “it’s thought impolite to say it.” As a result, the political culture “refuses to acknowledge one of its fundamental truths.”

Indeed, it’s generally forgotten, but one of the first debates of the Obama era began immediately after the president’s inauguration, when many prominent Republican voices agreed that they “hope Obama fails.” The main difference between then and now is that these same voices are in a position to ensure the president fails by blocking measures that would benefit the country — in many cases, measures Republicans supported until Obama said he agreed with them.

Which is why I support at least asking the question and having the debate.

Republicans said a payroll tax cut would help create jobs, and now they’re opposed to their own idea. Republicans said the Economic Development Administration is great for the economy, and now they’re opposed to that, too. Republicans have traditionally supported infrastructure investment, but the “infrastructure bank” idea appears likely to be killed by the GOP. Many Republicans endorsed the TANF Emergency Fund last year as an incredibly effective method of lowering unemployment, and the congressional GOP killed that, too.

Republicans are blocking qualified Treasury Department nominees who could also be working on economic policy. Republicans are blocking qualified Federal Reserve nominees who could also help improve the economy, while demanding that the Fed do nothing to promote economic activity. The GOP is demanding that Congress and the White House agree to immediately take money out of the economy and eliminate public-sector jobs, even when conservative economists say that’s crazy. What’s more, these same Republican officials have made it abundantly clear that failure to give them the cuts they want would force them to crash the economy on purpose.

And it’s against this backdrop that one of the most powerful Republican officials on Capitol Hill has argued, more than once, that his “top priority” isn’t job creation, but rather, “denying President Obama a second term in office.”

Tomasky thinks it’s “obvious” Republicans support “sabotaging the economy.” It is, to be sure, an uncomfortable subject, but maybe it’s time for the political world to have the awkward conversation anyway.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Mustang Bobby on June 25, 2011 10:58 AM:

    And this surprises anyone...how?

  • c u n d gulag on June 25, 2011 11:13 AM:

    Yeah, like Mustang Bobby, I wasn't at all surprised.

    I told my parents, even before the innauguration, that the Republicans would do anything and everything in their power to make sure that the economy didn't improve, since the credit would go to Obama and the Democrats.

    But, of course, I neglected to account for the idiot Blue Dogs on "our" own side who offer to help them.

    The MSM needs to realize, it's ONE thing if Rush, or Glenn, or Sean say it.
    But it's entirely another matter when the every Republican votes in a block to stop progress.
    Especiallly of programs that they themselves once supported.

    WAKE UP, MSM!!!
    But, who am I kidding?
    They're highly ompensated to misdirect the public from the truth.

  • bob h on June 25, 2011 11:25 AM:

    If you are carrying out God's will, as Republicans feel they are, you can easily rationalize running the nation into a ditch in behalf of the greater good of restoring Republican power long-term.

  • Chris on June 25, 2011 11:31 AM:

    There's no doubt that the GOP is trying to hurt the economy to ensure that Obama fails.

    They're also well aware that a worse economy will lead to even higher deficits--a result they claim to want to avoid. But if Dems still don't want to give in to their demands, then higher deficits would advance their "starve the beast" strategy even further.

    Don't raise the debt ceiling. Another recession. Possibly a depression. Higher deficits. Less government. Sounds good to them.

  • hornblower on June 25, 2011 11:32 AM:

    Since most of the political pundits and movers know each other it is very hard to question motives. Heck they have a fight at the next cocktail party.

  • blondie on June 25, 2011 11:36 AM:

    An "awkward" conversation?

    Out here in the real world, away from the Beltway, it's not awkward, it can get downright ugly. Every time I post a comment on a story in our local paper, it's immediately followed by trolls who spew garbage, or they indulge in "magical thinking" with no basis in reality (and when I point it out, THEN they spew garbage).

  • zandru on June 25, 2011 11:54 AM:

    It Behooves Us Lefties...

    ...to keep the story going. Mr. Benen provides all kinds of facts, quotes, and arguments. Use 'em at the watercooler, if you're lucky enough to be employed. Use them on your tea bagging relatives. Use them whenever politics comes up. Don't let anyone get away with the lazy old "well, both parties do it."

    Remember, there are no permanent losses and no permanent wins. You have to keep at it. "The Democrats will never" is just plain false. There is no "never" in politics, and there is no "always."

    Like the Captcha sez, "knowledge rMothe". (No, I have no idea of what that means, but it sounds good.)

  • DAY on June 25, 2011 11:56 AM:

    Interesting, is it not, that McConnell is going to have a one to one sit-down the man he wants to make a one term president?
    I'd be embarrassed, but then I am not a professional politician.

  • stormskies on June 25, 2011 11:57 AM:

    Right, and we can expect to see this fact of the Repiglicans purposelessly destroying our country in order to advance themselves on the nightly 'news = propaganda' shows any day now. We can expect it to be the main topic on all the Sunday propaganda shows as well. If not, why not ? The answer is self evident to only a very small minority of Americans who have actual critical thinking skills. The vast majority do not. So the vast majority always seems to focus on the purposeful misdirection created by the corporate media so that actual reality is protected from the view of the vast majority of Americans. And those in the 'media elite', the 'villagers', the 'beltway media', are paid millions to create the propaganda necessary:, the misdirected attention manifesting as the 'story line's' and the 'narratives' created by said media elite. These corporate media cum sluts are actually criminals hiding within the million dollars suites, ties, and dresses that are their 'reward' for doing the bidding of the corporations themselves.

  • hell's littlest angel on June 25, 2011 12:09 PM:

    I really don't get the commenters who say things like, "Oh, and this is news?" or "this is supposed to be surprising?" or "no duh, tell me something I don't know" etc.

    What are you fucking twelve years old? What is your point? You complain that someone is talking about things that no one is talking about because everyone knows that no one is talking about it. Or something. If you think this makes you sound smart or sophisticated, you are wrong -- it makes you sound like a cynical dumbfuck.

  • Roger the Cabin Boy on June 25, 2011 12:16 PM:

    Us DFH's have only been saying this for, what, years? So now, with economic Armageddon staring us in the face, it's "okay" to, like, actually say it out loud?

    And let's add that if things really go belly-up and the republicans manage to make enough hay out of it to sweep the elections in '12 that President Bachmann and the congressional clown circus will have absolutely no clue as to how to fix the mess they've made, if they even cared to in the first place.

    But that's just another DFH talkin'....

  • FRP on June 25, 2011 12:18 PM:

    It has proven difficult in my own life to appreciate and accommodate the myths of certain faithfully executed alienating nonsense .
    I suppose if they threaten to burn me I might get overheated first , then ...

  • lou on June 25, 2011 12:26 PM:

    To the GOP, the US has become their private ideological testing ground. They respond to critics by claiming that they failed in the past because their ideology was diluted or defiled. It was not pure enough. Now, Obama and the democrats are the main obstacle in their path to purity -- to proving that when ideological purity arrives their shit will turn to gold for everyone. On this path if they can stymie the progress of the liberals, if they can prove what failures the democrats have been, then they can wash that failure with the proof of their own, yet to be proven ideology. If that sounds like a double negative, it is. But that, in short, is the republican ideology and why they have to keep failing and keep the country failing to prove how right they are or will be when everyone is locked in on their righteous path.

  • spiny on June 25, 2011 1:05 PM:

    Last time I checked, there was a Democrat sitting in the oval office. He's the one with the power of the bully pulpit. He's the one that is supposed to lead the party. Yet what do we hear from him about Republicans: "they have some good ideas too". He's the one that capitulates to their demands before negotiations start. He's the one that filled his cabinet with Republican leaning corporate cronies and Wall Street hacks. He's the one that refuses to use recess appointments out of fear of looking too partisan. He's the one that isn't calling out the radical right on their unprecedented and hugely dangerous attempt to tie debt extension to budget reduction legislation, etc...

    The truth of the matter is that we have a Democratic president that wants to be perceived as a "centrist" who is above politics and really, really hates being associated with the base of the Democratic party. Why? because essentially he believes in the power of money and the elite status quo, and thinks that his re-election depends on how much money he can raise from have mores. And as long as that is the case, he and the rest of the bought and sold for "leaders" of the Democratic party are going to continue to drift closer and closer to the interests of big money and farther away from "partisan" politics.

  • gocart mozart on June 25, 2011 1:08 PM:

    Are you suggesting that they would try to drown the government in a bathtub? Wherever would you get such a crazy idea?

  • John B. on June 25, 2011 1:12 PM:

    Tomasky is right, of course. The new, extreme Republican party will do anything to defeat Obama even if it's disastrous for the U.S. economy, our foreign policy, our democracy, and the future of our children.

    Such as stance as the GOP leadership has taken is, of course, treasonous. But you can't say that in public; not unless you are Republican hurling accusations against a Democrat.

    The WH, Dems, Independents, and -- perhaps most importantly -- the diminishing number of fair-minded Republicans who see what's going on in their own party need a clear, crisp way of making the point without using the "treason' word. Any suggestions?

  • golack on June 25, 2011 1:21 PM:

    Well Obama had the temerity to tell McCain he lost...

    The problem with religion in politics is that real discussions can never happen. When belief and ideology (or idolatry) trump reality (cue music, "lyin' eyes"), it is truly poisonous for both religion and politics (see your post on Pat Robertson). The Republican party is now basically a cult.

    Pulling out of the debt ceiling talks are trial balloons. If they can get people to blame Obama for the problems caused by the debt crises they are creating, then they'll block raising the debt ceiling. Heck, if they can split the blame, it will work for them too.

  • gocart mozart on June 25, 2011 1:22 PM:

    In a sane country it would be shouted from the rooftops but of course our media must be at all times balanced and non-partisan. "Reasonable people can disagree as to whether slashing spending and laying people off in the midst of a recession will create jobs." and "Reasonable people can disagree as to whether cutting taxes on top earners will increase revenue and reduce the deficit." Many believe the earth is round but some opinions differ.

  • gocart mozart on June 25, 2011 1:33 PM:

    I second golack's point.

  • JW on June 25, 2011 1:36 PM:

    Benen: It appears someone has been reading Dr. Leo Marvin's book, 'Baby Steps'.

    Good for you!

    The GOP IS the party of Rule or Ruin, and you don't need anyone's permission to think it or speak it...

  • kevo on June 25, 2011 1:38 PM:

    Tally the votes! The evidence is there!

    For all the emergency spending in late 2008, how did we fair? (Who voted for what? And, what did all American citizens get from the legislation?)

    For all the follow-up legislation (after Pres. Obama's inauguration, 2009 - present) that was proposed so we'd never have to economically meltdown again, follow the responsive rhetoric, the immediate political posturing, and then, the actual votes (or paralyzing threat of the filibuster in the Senate) that have taken place!

    Do it MSM, and you'll no doubt find the empirical pattern of sabotage to our efforts of economic recovery for the purposes of partisan political gain at the polls!

    For this shear cynical political strategy, we have, going back generations of time, the unassuming American voter to thank! (Oh, and as hells littlest angel noted above those of the ilk who can snipe, but may not be actually doing something about the madness!) -Kevo

  • ManOutOfTime on June 25, 2011 1:45 PM:

    Driving down the road yesterday I saw a Dodge RAM pickup with two bumper stickers: "END THE LEFT IN AMERICA ... END IT!!" and "OWNER/OPERATOR IS A FREE AMERICAN PATRIOT."

    So, I'm not the kind of person who picks a fight over a bumper sticker. This is obviously not someone I'm going to persuade with my lefty blogospherical talking points. But I would really like to know what he thinks that means, to "end" the left, and does he mean me or my beliefs? And replace us with what? One-party rule, by jackoffs who call themselves "free american patriots" ... ?

    It is inconceivable, the damage that has been done to Americans' livelihoods, not to mention the injuries and deaths of American troops and Iraqi and Afghan civilians and combatants, in support of ... what, exactly? Apart from keping themselves in office, pissing off liberals, and keeping rich people's money in their pockets, I don't understand what do they want? Is it really just the money? Just self-aggrandizement and enrichment? On the backs of women and children, elderly, and the poor? It's so obscene and craven I can't suss it at all. I keep thinking there must be more to it ... but I guess there isn't?


  • tominwv on June 25, 2011 2:32 PM:

    some call it sabotage, others call it treason.

  • labradog on June 25, 2011 3:55 PM:

    Once we can approach the word "sabotage" like adults, in full cognition of its meaning, we then must of logical necessity concurrently approach the word "treason".

    Can those who through duplicity will sabotage the economic well being of the nation, along with that of their fellow citizens - purely for their own succor and comfortable survival - be seen then as anything less than traitors?

    This must be considered regarding the architects of GOP politics and a very small number of extremely wealthy individuals who made themselves the owners of that party.

    Are there more polite words for those who will screw their fellow Americans, their fellow residents on Earth, and their nation, all in the name of a sociopathic drive to accumulate wealth beyond imagination?

  • AK Liberal on June 25, 2011 4:26 PM:

    Steve, please keep beating the drum on this. The media establishment must awaken from its self-induced coma. The more people talk about this the more likely the story will get the attention it deserves.

  • Dex on June 25, 2011 4:35 PM:

    I am not proud of this fact, but I live in Eric Cantor's, the Great Saboreur, district. He is denial, he does not believe that he is committing treason.

  • Fed Up and Tired on June 25, 2011 5:10 PM:

    Now that you realize there is a conspiracy, are you ready to have an adult conversation about 9/11?

  • T2 on June 25, 2011 6:15 PM:

    Hillary Clinton blurted out the words "vast Right Wing Conspiracy" over a decade ago.
    She was right then, as it is now. The GOP Money Machine controls the message that America gets.
    That's why we are at the place we are at. And frankly, that's not gonna change.
    And yes, there are many unanswered 9/11 questions. But one, a main one, would be really interesting: Why did George W. Bush brush off his briefer on Aug. 8, 2010 when he was informed Bin Laden was actively planning an attack with airlines?

  • Analytical Liberal on June 25, 2011 7:30 PM:

    The hell with " the awkward conversation;" it's well past the time when we should be screaming it at the so-called "liberal media." Scream that the DECEIVERS seek to - and in fact are about to destroy America for all time.

    Who are the DECEIVERS? The Rethugs in Congress, Fox News, Rush, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Koch brothers, the GOP governors and legislators - ALL of the lying, greedy, rapacious and EVIL scumbags, who intentionally and in every word and breath do evil. The so-call religious right always ignores Mathew 25 when it would cost the well off a few dollars.

    The DECEIVERS seek to comfort the comfortable; to harm the hopeless; and yes, to sabotage the economy. It is obvious - and has bee so since the time of St. Ronald; or the time of FDR; or even the time of Teddy Roosevelt. It's is well past time to call out the evil-doers for the evil that they do - in clear, unambiguous terms without social niceties or euphemisms: they are DECEIVERS.

  • ameshall on June 25, 2011 8:23 PM:

    The Democrats don't have the stones to make this argument and hammer it home. As soon as the GOP and its 24/7 noise machine launch a counterattack, the Democrats will retreat. It's beyond pathetic.

  • Elizabelle on June 25, 2011 10:03 PM:

    Thank you for saying this, Steve.

    It needs to be said. Again and again. And it's even true.

  • Bill Karwin on June 26, 2011 12:33 PM:

    I'm not convinced. I default to Hanlon's razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

    It's simply coincidence that the modern Republican one-size-fits all solution to every problem, "cut taxes," would not help create jobs in our current economy, and in fact it would drive more people out of work.

  • xando foote on June 26, 2011 4:42 PM:

    Sorry if I am repeating someone else's input.

    If the GOP Senate minority leader states unequivically for the record that his first priority is to deny Mr. Obama a second term, one must assume that this goal supersedes any effort to support the US economy, address health care issues, assist in employment development, support our troops overseas and at home, enhance opportunities for eduation of our children, and so on.

    So, of course, we must assume that the GOP minority leader will keep his word and, juding from childish antics by Rep. Cantor in the House, that GOP controlled policial body will also support sabotage of the economy if this will help achieve their ultimate goal.

    It should be clear to all of us; and it should be clear to US voters a little more than one year from now. The GOP will destroy anything and everything they can if this results in the defeat of President Obama. why is there any doubt?

  • keith on June 27, 2011 4:21 PM:

    I don't blame the Republicans at all. Eligible voters who don't bother to vote have put them into power. I spoke to a poverty law official from Georgia. He lamented that his office, serving 27 rural counties, was being closed for lack of funding. I asked who his US Representative was. He said that a Republican had recently defeated the Democrat. I asked how many people in his counties had voted in that election. He said it was something like 30% of the eligible voters. In my view, the 70% who didn't bother to vote were the ones who killed the program, not the 30% who did.