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June 22, 2011 1:15 PM The ‘sabotage’ question goes mainstream

By Steve Benen

In November, I faced all kinds of pushback by raising a provocative argument: is it possible Republicans would pursue policies that would hurt the economy on purpose?

Seven months later, it appears the “sabotage” question is going mainstream.

E.J. Dionne Jr. inched pretty close to it last week, noting that Republicans “have no interest” in working on job creation because “Republicans benefit if the economy stays sluggish.” Kevin Drum wondered whether this will ever be “a serious talking point,” adding, “No serious person in a position of real influence really wants to accuse an entire party of cynically trying to tank the economy, after all.”

That appears to be changing.

Republicans are sabotaging economic recovery efforts because it will help them win in 2012, Senate Democratic leaders charged Wednesday.

“Unfortunately our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate are driven by putting one man out of work — President Obama,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) declared at a Capitol Hill press conference called the day after Senate Republicans blocked an economic development bill that they have backed in the past.

Durbin pointed to remarks made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in which he said the top goal of Republicans should be to make Obama a one-term President.

Durbin added that “their only goal” is to defeat the president, adding, “They believe a weak economy is there best chance of winning the next election.”

This isn’t subtle. Durbin is saying that Republicans are deliberately holding back the economy for purely partisan reasons. It’s an explosive charge, and as of today, he’s not the only one making it.

The rhetorical shift appears to the result of last night’s vote on the Economic Development Administration, a successful program that provides federal grants to local projects. Republicans have repeatedly said that they believe the EDA is great for economic growth and job creation, but they nevertheless linked arms and killed the bill. This comes after Republicans balked at a payroll tax cut intended to spur hiring, another measure the GOP has traditionally supported — until now.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the number three Democrat in the chamber, told reporters this morning, “If they oppose even something so suited to their tastes ideologically, it shows that they’re just opposing anything that helps create jobs. It almost makes you wonder if they aren’t trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain.”

Yes, almost.

At a minimum, it hardly seems unreasonable to call for some national discussion on this. 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. Many Republicans endorsed the TANF Emergency Fund last year as an incredibly effective method of lowering unemployment, and then the congressional GOP killed that, too.

Republicans are blocking qualified Federal Reserve nominees who could help improve the economy. Republicans are also blocking qualified Treasury Department nominees who could also be working on economic policy. 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.”

Is it really that outrageous to at least ask the question? It’s an uncomfortable subject, to be sure, but maybe it’s possible the political world should have the awkward conversation? When Republicans oppose ideas they used to support, at a critical time for the economy, are we not even allowed to consider their motives?

Update: I should also note that Senate Dems aren’t the only one broaching the subject. Some respected and knowledge pundits — Dionne, Eugene Robinson, Daniel Gross — have all said recently it’s at least possible that some Republicans are pursuing a destructive economic policy on purpose.

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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  • Roger the Cabin Boy on June 22, 2011 1:20 PM:

    Finally! Of course they're sabotaging the economy, at whatever cost to our country, because it's their best chance (as they see it) of gaining more elected offices and more political power. It's always that, and I hope that Democrats see this as the mortal combat that it's been since Obama was elected.

  • Mudge on June 22, 2011 1:21 PM:

    It takes some people a long time to see, as they say, what is in front of their nose. I guess the deficit limit circus wasn't enough. Well see if the Democrats backtrack on this after the Republicans get all teary eyed and call them meanies.

  • Steve LaBonne on June 22, 2011 1:23 PM:

    I'm sure Politifart will give this a "Pants on fire" (ignoring the fact that its own britches are completely charred.)

  • Speaksense on June 22, 2011 1:24 PM:

    Duh! I can't believe how bloody timid the Democrats are! Of course, the Republicans are sabotaging the economy with the full assistance of the Democrats who will not call them out on their behavior. I am sick of the Democrats sitting on the sidelines allowing the Republicans and the media to ruin this Country with barely a squeak of protest. Hey guys guess what...your base is NOT "Fired up & Ready to Go".

  • Danny on June 22, 2011 1:24 PM:

    This is great, and kudos to you Steve for raising the issue. It's the truth and the american people deserves the truth whether the D.C. elites consider it good manners or not.

    But I'll add some scorn with the praise. It's completely backwards that congressional dems are the ones going out in front on this. Sadly that's indicative of a democratic/progressive midset where grassroots and independent opinionators are slightly (sorry) timid with going out and advocating / making the case. We're much more comfortable to call on our politicians to make the case for us and then make some commentary when they do, keeping our hands squeeky clean.

    That's what you're doing here, a little.

    But that's completely backwards. If conservative flack feels that Steve Benen was not being perfectly courteous - who the f-ck cares? It doesn't hurt the movement or progressive policy any more than it hurts the conservative movement every time you call Rush or O'Reilly out on their falsehoods. Conservatives knows this and they know who are supposed to be the foot soldiers (or at least they used to).

    It would be better if you guys did a better job in pushing this stuff unto the national radar. Durbin and Schumer having to stick their neck out and risk getting slapped down without the hard work of establishing the narrative already done is stupid - if what we care about most is slapping repubs around and getting progressive policy passed...

  • International Mikey on June 22, 2011 1:25 PM:

    The only place this will gain traction is in the blogosphere. Do you honestly see David Gregory or Bob Schieffer pursuing this on the Sunday talkers? More likely they'll have Grandpa Crabby McCain or Newt hold court. This will never get mainstreamed - much to our dismay - true as it may be.

  • Vince on June 22, 2011 1:26 PM:

    The Democrats should start relentlessly hammering the Republicans on this now and repeat it over and over and over. And over again. This time next year it should be the overwhelming them of the Democrats. At this point, it's the only thing they have, since it is, in fact, true, that the Republicans do want to sabotage the economy.

    They should stop beating around the bush, in fact, and just say that Republicans are unpatriotic by putting their electoral goals ahead of the American people. And, again, that would be true.

  • Vince on June 22, 2011 1:27 PM:

    Um, that 3rd sentence in the 1st paragraph should have read "This time next year it should be the overwhelming theme of the Democrats."

  • bignose on June 22, 2011 1:28 PM:

    The timing is pretty good on this - All current and potential GOP candidates are on record as opposing those policies that would clearly benefit recovery. The "gotcha" of gettting them on record as opposing the payroll tax cut seals the deal.

    The problem, though, is getting the message out that these policies would help, and that the policies that the GOP is pushing would make things worse. The noise machine has muddled this pretty thoroughly, at this point, and it needs to be untangled, and simplified somehow, for middle America.

  • AK Liberal on June 22, 2011 1:28 PM:

    It takes some people a long time to see, as they say, what is in front of their nose.

    I'm willing to bet that Democrats have known this all along. However, it takes time to build a case that cannot be dismissed out of hand as partisan whining. They have to convince the political press corps in order for the charge to gain any traction. They have to get then to pull away from deficit reduction and the latest twitter scandal to give it any air time. In other words, it has to be so obvious that it can no longer be ignored.

  • kd bart on June 22, 2011 1:29 PM:

    It's been their cheif strategic goal since 1/20/2009. A weak economy is their only hope of winning back the Presidency. There are no Obama scandals they can turned to. They don't care about the collateral damage it causes the rest of the nation. As long as it destroys Obama, it is worth it to them. It is beyond cynicism.

  • Doug N on June 22, 2011 1:31 PM:

    Democrats blame the Republicans, Republicans blame the Dems. This allows them to do what both of them want to do... nothing...

    Why is it that leaders only listen to people when there are riots in the streets?

  • Anonymous on June 22, 2011 1:31 PM:

    The 'sabotage' question goes mainstream.

    Really?

    D'oh!!!

    Finally!!!

    I said the same thing BEFORE the inauguration!!!!!!!

    Now, Democrats, rinse an repeat DAILY!!!

  • marty on June 22, 2011 1:34 PM:

    "It almost makes you wonder if they arenít trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain.Ē

    ALMOST MAKES YOU WONDER?????

    While it's better late than never, c'mon boys....this has been freaking OBVIOUS to most of us out here for a LONG time!!

  • Roger the Cabin Boy on June 22, 2011 1:37 PM:

    And a large number of people are worried about a republican takeover of government, with good reason. Let's start piling on top of that, Democrats. This is no time to be dissuaded by republican tears of fake outrage, this is the battle for our country's future.

  • majun on June 22, 2011 1:37 PM:

    Time for Dems to play by GOP rules. Back in 2002 the GOP held onto their Congressional majorities largely by attacking Democrats over Homeland Security issues. The most famous being Saxby Chambliss' attack on Max Cleland based on his vote against the DHS bill. Chambliss used the vote as proof that Cleland didn't care about security issues enough even though Cleland's vote was motivated by the GOP's inclusion of union busting provisions in a homeland security bill, designed to force Democrats to vote the way Cleland did so they could be attacked at election time.

    Now, whether true or not, the evidence is overwhelming that the GOP is openly sabotaging the national economy for purely political reasons and they need to be called on it in an onslaught of campaign spots that will make Chambliss' use of Osama bin Laden against Cleland look like a walk in the park. The Democrats should do everything in their power to make sure that GOP candidates this coming election are spending all their time defending their votes on the Ryan Kill Medicare bill, the EDA, and their opposition to a payroll tax holiday.

    Unlike the Homeland Security attacks of 2002, these will have the advantage of being deserved since Democrats did nothing to maneuver GOP members into a position where they had to vote the way they did, they did it for purely partisan reasons.

  • Take Them at Their Turd on June 22, 2011 1:41 PM:

    About freakin' time. Now they need to bang this drum as it were a respirator and they're on life support — until they're out of the woods (politically, electorally, and policy-wise).

    "We want jobs for everyone; the GOP just wants the president's job."

    It's not like the GOP is going to shift away from what it thinks is a winning strategy, after all, so Dem leaders need to make this a daily ongoing topic until November 2012:

    "Today's [vote/filibuster/comments from the Minority Leader/false advertising/etc.] proved once again that while Democrats are doing whatever we can to create more jobs, the GOP is doing whatever it can just to take away one job — the president's."

    It's an easy argument to make and an easy point for voters to grasp. Now we just have to hope the Democrats take the easy road.

  • Lifelong Dem on June 22, 2011 1:42 PM:

    Go, Dick Durbin, go get 'em!

    THAT'S MY U.S. SENATOR!!!!!

  • SaintZak on June 22, 2011 1:45 PM:

    Thank you Sen. Durbin...now keep saying it over and over and over.

    I hope he's not forced to give another tearful apology on the Senate floor over this one.

  • Roger the Cabin Boy on June 22, 2011 1:47 PM:

    The only jobs that republicans have any interest in creating are elected positions for them in the federal and state legislatures and executive offices. Wait, aren't those government jobs?

  • Kathryn on June 22, 2011 1:56 PM:

    Vince is right, right, right. Also like the line "We want jobs for everyone, the GOP just want the President's job", from Take Them at Their Turd. There are plenty of on air statements that show unequivocally what they're up to, not to mention filibusters, failure to approve judicial appointments, statement about not approving anybody for the Consumer Protection Agency and plenty more. They haven't been shy about their plans and they've said it loudly and clearly. Please don't let them (Dems) back down. It's way past enough is enough!

  • Perspecticus on June 22, 2011 1:57 PM:

    "Itís an uncomfortable subject, to be sure..."

    Granted, I won't be pilloried across cable television and the intranets for saying so, but I am perfectly comfortable discussing the fact that it is becoming increasingly obvious that the plan has been since November, 2008, to stall the economy in order to regain the House, Senate and White House. One down.

    As for the mainstreaming of the argument, while it is nice to see somebody talking about the matter, I'll agree it has been mainstreamed when it becomes, at the least, weekly fodder* for the Sunday shows.

    *To be clear, I am referring to honest evaluations of what is happening, not just four Republican activists poo-poo'ing the idea and screaming for apologies.

  • stormskies on June 22, 2011 1:58 PM:

    And I am sure we will see this 'news' dutifully reported on all the evening 'propaganda' shows called the evening news .. .and then we can all wait for this to be discussed on the sunday propaganda shows as well ......... if not, why not ? we all sadly know the answers

    of of which might be the veto power of joe scarborough

  • PeterDC on June 22, 2011 1:59 PM:

    Never has the expression "the elephant in the room" rung more true. The reluctance to use a narrative to explain 'how we got here' is the great failure of progressive politics these last decades. The facts are there and are such that even rampant ideology can't hold sway over true majorities, except by deception. Expose it. In my experience people don't like being told they've been fooled, and especially if they have been, so some can never be reached, but I know enough can be. I hope.

  • Stevio on June 22, 2011 2:06 PM:

    NOW! Obama must put a real face on this. gab three folding chairs and ask for a pow-wow at the state of Abe Lincoln and ask them to their faces why all of these programs that are being offered as a manner to create much need jobs are being sabotaged by their party.

    Do it now Obama or join the unemployed in 2012. NOW!!!

  • karen on June 22, 2011 2:07 PM:

    They aren't just sabotaging the economy, they are actively sabotaging the country--no middle class, no social contract, crumbling infrastructure, no livable communities, no impediment to the destructive forces of climate change, no support for progress of any kind, in any sphere.

  • T2 on June 22, 2011 2:07 PM:

    A look at the last 4-6 months of the Bush admin is instructive. It was Bush who began the bail-outs at the end of his term, with the full support of the GOP Congress, as the nation's economic disaster became fully apparent. Obama, in the very early days of his term continued measures designed to help the economy, notably the Stimulus. But all of a sudden the GOP, who had voted to pass measures causing the collapse and then Bush measures to help stop it, all of a sudden it was "the Simulus is a givaway". From that point on they have stymied everything or held hostage important things in order to get further Rich Tax Cuts.
    Nope, its not a mystery - they are doing it on purpose and have said so. And yes, it is uncomfortable to have to accuse one of the two major parties in our political system of essentially treason. But there you have it.

  • JD Rhoades on June 22, 2011 2:30 PM:

    For years, the Republicans had no problem telling everyone who'd listen that the Democrats "wanted us to fail" in Iraq. Now we have the GOP's leaders openly cheering for failure. Did you see the look on Michelle Bachmann's face when she talked about the possibility of a double dip recession? Sheer glee.

    These people need to be called out on this.

  • Alwaya Hopeful on June 22, 2011 2:34 PM:

    It's also why the corporatocracy is sitting on $1 trillion in reserves and NOT investing. They got our bailouts and are refusing to play until their demands are met. I'll bet that a lot of those dollars will be going into elections though.

  • rikyrah on June 22, 2011 2:53 PM:

    why would folks give you pushback for pointing out the OBVIOUS?

    once those assclown Governors started cancelling projects and giving away federal funds for those infrastructure projects, the goal was clear.

    Orange Julius' ' so.be.it'. Remember that?

    you were just ahead of the curve telling the truth, and the truth made the GOP out to be the sociopaths and traitors to this country that they are.

  • Stephen Stralka on June 22, 2011 3:02 PM:

    Spread the word! It's sabotage! I'm sure the Beastie Boys would be happy to let the Democrats use their song in campaign adds.

  • elbrucce on June 22, 2011 3:13 PM:

    This comes after Republicans balked at a payroll tax cut intended to spur hiring

    Nobody believes this. Demand creates jobs. An employer-side payroll tax cut will wind up as higher corporate profits, dividends, and increasing the shortfall of the Social Security Trust Fund, goals apparently shared by both Republicans and Pres hopey-changey.

  • Marc McKenzie on June 22, 2011 3:18 PM:

    At the risk of dripping snark...."Well, duh!!"

    I mean, c'mon...it's as obvious as those ugly little noses on our ugly primate faces.

    The questions should now be: when is the media going to go postal on the Repubs for doing this, and will some of us FINALLY realize that there are vast differences between the two parties--with one party trying to help, and the other more interested in dropping us further on the express elevator to hell?

    Or are some just going to pout and say, "It doesn't matter anyway"?

  • exlibra on June 22, 2011 3:22 PM:

    The word "sabotage" has its roots in the French word "sabot" -- a wooden shoe worn by peasants. Do we have any pictures of sabot-wearing elephants stomping on US, to send to all the Congressional GOPholes?

    "ryeada subject". Is da subject really "rye"? Or is it "wry"?

  • Texas Aggie on June 22, 2011 3:27 PM:

    A corollary to this obvious motive for trashing our economy is that the core members of the republican party who are calling the shots will not be hurt much when the economy crashes. They are the ones already in charge not only here but through much of the world. They are the ones who stand to gain from a disaster, not their foot soldiers. But their footsoldiers, the TP's, can be sacrificed. Unfortunately everyone is going down the tubes except them, so we won't even have the sick pleasure of saying, "I told you so."

  • MLJohnston on June 22, 2011 3:44 PM:

    The Republican party and friends of the Republican party including corporations are sabatoging America and Americans for thir own gains. The Republicans stand of fascism and authoritarian rule with Corporate lead. The corporations are holding back on jobs and American growth to destroy the Freedoms of America.

  • June on June 22, 2011 4:26 PM:

    Finally! That is music to my ears. Cue the wailing-and-gnashing of teeth and "hurt feelings" on the Republican side of the aisle.

  • brooklyn on June 22, 2011 4:46 PM:

    Of course this is what they're doing! It's not cynical to make the suggestion; it's naive not to. They've just found another Waterloo to take Obama down. Also, the Republican Party has been trying to reverse the New Deal for generations, and creating a crisis (starving the beast) gives them cover to propose shocking cuts to programs they've always wanted to kill.

    May we all live in shame for the rest of our lives if we let them get away with it.

  • SF on June 22, 2011 5:01 PM:

    Of course it's sabotage. For personal and political gain. Republicans today have no true patriotism or community interest. It's all about them -- money, privilege, position. Blogs give voice to the powerless and otherwise unheard. It's the job of liberal bloggers to hammer home the truth, in strong clear fearless language, until the din grows loud enough to the erupt into the MSM. Politicians, including most Dems, can't be trusted to initiate challenge because (with very few exceptions) they're part of the establishment, members of the club holding onto privilege. And Steve, please: expect push back. That means you're onto something. What do you think -- you blow the whistle on them in November, and they're not going to send their minions out to dismiss you? Forceful talk in the face of fiscal tyranny and diminishing civil liberties is essential. Besides, you can't hurt the feelings of oligarchs. They don't have feelings or even mild interest in The People, because 99% of The People are not filthy rich. And to these guys (and gals) that's all that matters.

  • Jo Procter on June 23, 2011 7:26 AM:

    This is important and the media must take this to heart because their reporting "he said, she said," and then not sorting out what's true and what's not has helped the republicans in their move to over throw a government of the people. One person to investigate and hone in on is Mitch McConnell - he's poison.

  • Seibeelias on December 17, 2011 9:24 PM:

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