Political Animal


July 01, 2011 1:20 PM When the saboteur’s shoe fits…

By Steve Benen

This morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the third highest-ranking Democrat in the chamber, issued a media advisory, letting reporters know about a news conference he’d host. The headline said Schumer would point to “fresh questions about whether GOP is out to tank economy on purpose for political gain.”

In other words, the New York Democrat was prepared to triple down on the “sabotage” line he’s been brave enough to trumped.

And sure enough, Schumer, once again, went there.

On a conference call Friday morning, another reporter asked Schumer whether he believes the GOP’s committing sabotage (my words, not the reporter’s). Here’s his response.

“It’s a thought you just don’t want to believe in, because that would be [horrible],” Schumer said. “But every day they keep giving us more and more evidence that there’s no choice but to answer the question ‘yes.’ They give us no choice but to come to that conclusion.”

Pointing to trade deals GOP senators first demanded and then blocked, Schumer added, “Republicans took us down the rabbit hole once again…. Are Republicans opposing yet another measure they once supported simply because that measure might be good for the economy?”

As Greg Sargent explained, “The key point here is that Dem messaging chief Schumer is signaling that each example like this will now be pressed into service to build the larger case that Republicans have decided that a worse economy for the country is better politically for them, so any measure that risks creating jobs must be opposed at all costs.”

Also note the GOP response, or in this case, the lack thereof. Schumer’s increasingly-provocative allegations are, to a certain extent, shocking. The senator is suggesting it’s at least possible that the Republican Party is so radical and filled with hate, the GOP would deliberately hurt the country in the hopes it would lead to partisan gains. In other words, one of Congress’ most prominent Democrats has effectively accused Republicans of trying to sabotage the nation’s economy.

To put it mildly, Republican officials aren’t saying much about this at all.. No calls for an apology, no shrieks, no outrage, no apoplexy.

And why not? Because to do so would be to engage in the very debate the GOP is desperate to avoid. Once there’s a conversation, and the question enters the political bloodstream, the American mainstream is confronted with the possibility that the Republican Party cares more about their election strategy than our well being.

The debate, however, is starting to occur anyway. In his column today, Paul Krugman noted, “[I]t’s hard to avoid the suspicion that G.O.P. leaders actually want the economy to perform badly.” Last night, Rachel Maddow asked Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, whether it’s possible Republicans would sabotage the economy. “Well, let me be honest,” he said. “It has occurred to me that this is a possibility.”

Eugene, you’re not the only one.

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.


Post a comment
  • Jack on July 01, 2011 1:28 PM:

    Excellent post.

    But seeing how the root of "sabotage" is the French word for "shoe" -- describing French workers who'd intentionally destroy their industrial machines by tossing a boot into the gears -- you could've just titled this "When the sabot fits..."

  • DAY on July 01, 2011 1:30 PM:

    At last, someone using the language that the Unwashed Masses can understand!

    Please, sir, can we have some more?

  • c u n d gulag on July 01, 2011 1:31 PM:


    Now, Democrats, SHOUT IT! And repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, REPEAT!!!

    Eventually, if they don't respond, the Republicans will be asked this by the MSM why they're not, and maybe, just maybe, Mr & Mrs America, and all ships at sea, will hear this - because it is the truth.

    I'm also sure that right now, in a labs somewhere, Karl Rove and Frank Luntz are test marketing possible responses with people who have lower than a 3 digit IQ to make sure that the reporters can also understand.

  • Jon on July 01, 2011 1:34 PM:

    Democrats just fail to understand. The GOP has to destroy the village in order to save it.

  • just bill on July 01, 2011 1:35 PM:

    finally! a democrat with enough balls to tell it like it is!

    more please!!

  • MMS on July 01, 2011 1:40 PM:

    Yes, yes, yes.

    Give 'em hell, Chuck.

  • ComradeAnon on July 01, 2011 1:41 PM:

    I am shocked, nee stunned... aw what the hell. We've all been thinking this for a couple of years. Hell we all probaby commented on it at one time in the past. It's nice to see Shumer AND the President on the same message for once.

  • jeri on July 01, 2011 1:42 PM:

    At last, a Democrat stood up to Republicans and called them out on their shameful policy. Kudos to Schumer.

    What I want to know is why he is all alone. Where are all the other Democrats who should add their voices to his? Surely the news about Schumer's leadership must have reached them by now.

  • kevo on July 01, 2011 1:44 PM:

    The Republicans have no plan
    save to become our boss
    one way or another,

    so, yes,
    they're actually working
    against our best interests today,

    thinking once they're in charge,
    good times will magically appear,
    or not,

    and in such a future case,
    they could just use
    the privatization model

    being offered by their party brand
    in Michigan, and currently
    terrorizing civil government

    and the good,
    Middle Class citizens
    of that once great State!


    If the wealth
    you've grown
    in your lifetime
    does not exceed millions,

    Or your annual income
    does not exceed $150,000,
    you'd be a fool to vote Republican
    in the next election cycle!

  • square1 on July 01, 2011 1:50 PM:

    I have mixed feelings about this.

    When employing "sabotage" rhetoric, Democrats are on safe ground with regard to the debt limit. A few months ago, even top GOP leaders conceded the obvious: You don't throw the world's economy into chaos out of pique in order to protest the possible long-term dangers of excessive debt.

    When attacking the GOP for supporting tax cuts and opposing stimulus spending, the Democrats are on much weaker ground. Yes, in practice, the GOP's policies are making the economy worse, but since the GOP's policies are policies that they would advocate even if a Republican were in office, it is hard to argue that the motivation is sabotage.

    With regard to these trade agreements, Schumer is out to lunch. First, I'd like to see ANY evidence that if you passed the trade agreements today that it would have a measurable impact on the U.S. economy before the 2012 election.

    Second, the whole reason that the Democrats want the benefit provisions incorporated is because the trade agreements will cost the U.S. domestic jobs. It is hard to argue that the GOP is sabotaging America because they refuse to agree to policies that could make unemployment worse.

    It is really touching that Schumer chose to roll out the sabotage rhetoric, not in response to the GOP's refusal to fund infrastructure spending, and not in response to the GOP's refusal to extend unemployment benefits, but when the GOP threatened Wall Street profits.

  • Michael on July 01, 2011 1:53 PM:

    The reason Schumer is starting the conversation is calculated. They have already test marketed their response. It will be fear and hate, and they will do well with it.
    utlose fulfilling... friuedian?

  • Sasha on July 01, 2011 1:54 PM:

    That the GOP is sabotaging the economy is beyond question. What is debatable is are they doing it intentionally for political gain or are they doing it unintentionally because they're blinded by ideology.

  • hate not ideology on July 01, 2011 1:56 PM:

    It is easy to see -- they were fine with deficits and huge new government programs and bailouts when Bush was in office. Now that there is a scary black hooligan in power, they hate everything they once loved.


  • zeitgeist on July 01, 2011 1:56 PM:

    in fairness, square 1, i think Schumer started this when the R's opposed the EDA grants they previously supported. it just took a couple of iterations for (a) him to realize he could crank it up rhetorically without pushback and (b) the media to pay any attention.

    now, whether the underlying policy is good, bad, or indifferent, it makes sense that whenever R's oppose an effort to spur economic activity that they once supported, that it gets added to the larger narrative.

    obviously, since the premise is "things R's once supported," it safe to guess that some of that will also be opposed by progressives (for very different reasons, one hopes). the hypocrisy-obstructionist narrative remains effective, however.

  • Michaeli on July 01, 2011 1:58 PM:

    Square they didn't walk out because of hurting employment.. they walked out because of helping workers who are displaced, learn to read your articles.

  • Mitch on July 01, 2011 2:00 PM:

    I love to see D's with spine. We try to be the mature, adult party; but frankly you can't negotiate with Republicans these days. It's pointless to try.

    The number one goal of the Republican party is not to serve America, it is to destroy the President. They have said as much.

    Even when it LOOKS like they are negotiating, they aren't being serious.

    Like the post yesterday detailing how the Repug's (in March) said an 85/15 split of cuts/revenue increases was ideal. But now that the D's have offered them nearly that EXACT thing, the R's move the bar once again.

    Do they want to destroy the country? I doubt it, really; maybe I'm naive but I don't think they are Evil. Misinformed, uneducated, hateful and led by greedy men, yeah. They are, however, the enemies for Obama and all things Democratic. They are holding the country hostage, comfortable in the belief that Obama will be blamed for a troubled economy.

    Thankfully most Americans don't blame him for it. Yet.

    Only by calling them out - repeatedly - and fighting them in the court of public opinion do we stand a chance.

  • KK on July 01, 2011 2:03 PM:

    No surprise at all. We default and NY will get crushed, other then the zillion new tourists that roll in with a dollar that is half it's current value. However, Chuck gets a meme, he won't let go. Perhaps he is wisely setting up for the Constitutional option on the debt? If they need to do it best they lay some groundwork because the buffoons will have their usual hissy fit and likely try and impeach the Prez.

  • TCinLA on July 01, 2011 2:07 PM:

    In other words, one of Congressí most prominent Democrats has effectively accused Republicans of (trying to sabotage the nationís economy) TREASON.

    There - corrected it.

  • Sf on July 01, 2011 2:13 PM:

    It's been obvious for years that Republicans have a perverse but determined need to destroy the America we grew up in -- the one with the Bill of Rights and the two party system; an objective Supreme Court; a working three part government -- but I never could figure out why.Protestations to the contrary (Boehner back to Reagan) that has been the goal. But why? The rich are driving this, but sending jobs overseas eventually tosses people out of homes and jobs. It forces health care costs up as more and more can't pay, seek assistance, go to emergency rooms, and end up with expensive, preventable conditions that further deplete what's left of public coffers. How does this benefit the economic upper class? What am I missing here?

  • Theo on July 01, 2011 2:15 PM:

    It's good to see Schumer finally showing some spine - now that it's safe to; let's hope he keeps it up.

    Steve, those of us who watch MSNBC have had it drummed into our heads that Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize winner; it doesn't really add to his credibility. I like Eugene Robinson and I used to enjoy his columns over the years when I subscribed to The Washington Post, but he's still basically a middle-of-the-roader. The thought "has occurred to" him "that this is a possibility." Not exactly a strong statement.

    Sorry to be so cranky - it's just me having a bad day. I really do love your blog.

  • T2 on July 01, 2011 2:19 PM:

    we covered this pretty well yesterday and most of us said "keep it coming"....and Schumer obliged. Certainly the absence of any push back by the GOP - I mean, they went apoplectic just because Obama yelled at them a little, but no push here at all can really only mean one thing....I'll give them one more day to come out and call Schumer "a New Hitler", but it would seem they want this line of discourse to go away. Not even Rush is mentioning it.

  • square1 on July 01, 2011 2:21 PM:


    You mean the workers who will be displaced because of the trade policies advocated by Chuck Schumer?

    Listen, most of us would agree that a trade agreement with some benefits for displaced workers is better than one without. But spare me the bullshit, okay?

    Such provisions are the only way that corporate stooges like Schumer can perform the bidding of Wall Street without what's left of the unions throwing a mutiny on their ass. Schumer doesn't give a crap about unemployed workers. He only cares about staying in office.

    And if he can co-opt a rhetorically useful, if logically dubious, phrase to push through more neo-liberal trade policies...all the better.

  • MattZ on July 01, 2011 2:22 PM:

    Thank you, Steve, for providing this forum. It helps keep me sane.

  • hornblower on July 01, 2011 2:57 PM:

    Inside the Village you never talk about people you may see at a cocktail party.
    Isn't time to put the country ahead of a personal relationships.

  • zandru on July 01, 2011 3:03 PM:

    "To put it mildly, Republican officials aren't saying much about this at all.. No calls for an apology, no shrieks, no outrage, no apoplexy."

    They realize that they've been caught. Shortly, the talking points will come down from Grover Norquist and the other couple of morbidly-fat cats running the Republicans, and you'll hear identical screams and bluster come out of every Republican piehole across the nation. But those screams will consist of character assassination of Schumer and the President, misleading and false assertions, tortured conman-style logic, and lots of primal screaming. Nowhere will they either admit to guilt or innocence.

    "rigionde satisfies" - You bet it does!

  • Archon on July 01, 2011 3:15 PM:

    That is great analysis Steve. I do find it fascinating that the GOP who takes umbrage and is quick to demand an apology for every slight has decided to stay silent on this. They really don't want that conservation to until the political mainstream.

    On a different note I wonder if Obama's strategy of letting the GOP engage in maximalist negotiated behavior is a way of eventually making a case next year that our political system is broken and in need of serious reform. It's one thing to run on the GOP's radicalism, it's another to run on the system that would even allow it.

  • laceface on July 01, 2011 3:26 PM:

    I think Sen. Schumer needs some kind of award for Democrat with the biggest cahones. I am so proud of him for having the courage to stand up and call out the rethugs on exactly what it is they are doing. Did they think we were ALL too stupid to realize this was their angle all along? Don't answer that...

  • j on July 01, 2011 3:35 PM:

    I read a comment just his morning from someone who had been at a meeting with
    Grover Norquist some years ago (when George Bush was pres) Norquist was talking about how there would be a permanent republican government in this country.
    When he was asked about the possibility that a democrat might be elected - his answer was 'well, we will not let them govern as such'
    This seems to be the game plan.

  • hornblower on July 01, 2011 3:35 PM:

    I take it on faith that Pres. Obama is setting the Republicans up for 2012. He is smarter than they are and sees that they are playing right into his hand.
    You know he maybe smarter than us too.

  • biggerbox on July 01, 2011 3:51 PM:

    Notice how eager the media and the Republicans are to talk about what Halperin said, and how rude Obama was in his press conference, yet no one has made a peep about how rude Shumer has been?

    They really don't want to attract any attention to this idea, because it is so clearly true.

  • Rob Staeger on July 01, 2011 5:28 PM:

    Just wanted to say: Great headline.

  • PEA on July 01, 2011 6:13 PM:

    You go Chuck!

    Saying this (which many of us have thought for awhile now, based on Rs' actual words) primes the pump and makes it possible for other Dems to dare to utter the same thought. And maybe eventually the MSM will begin to hear it and repeat it occasionally...They are only human (sort of).

  • Kobie on July 01, 2011 9:46 PM:

    It's just occurring to these people NOW that the GOP is trying to fuck up the economy on purpose? REALLY?

  • pluege on July 02, 2011 3:51 AM:

    the only thing surprising is that there wasn't outrage long ago at that clearly stated republican's PRIMARY goal to make obama fail. This indisputably meant/means keeping the economy bad as nothing affects the success of failure of a presidency more than the economy. As usual, democrats are slow as can be on the uptake.