Political Animal


October 31, 2011 10:40 AM Axelrod latest to raise the sabotage question

By Steve Benen

David Axelrod, a senior campaign strategist for President Obama, talked yesterday with CNN’s Candy Crowley, who asked whether it’s surprising that the White House has had “a hard time with Congress.” Axelrod responded:

“I think this is something — something different going on right now. When you have the leader — the Republican leader of the Senate say, ‘Our number one goal — in the midst of this economy, our number one goal is to defeat the president,’ and they’re acting like it.

“They don’t want to cooperate. They don’t want to help. Even on measures to help the economy that they traditionally have supported before, like a payroll tax cut, like infrastructure, rebuilding our roads and bridges and surface transport. These — so you have to ask you a question: Are they willing to tear down the economy in order to tear down the president or are they going to cooperate?

“And, listen, there’s a reason why the Congress is at 9 percent in some polls, approval, lowest in history. Because this is different than we’ve ever seen before.” [emphasis added]

This comes just three weeks after Jim Messina, the campaign manager for Obama/Biden 2012, sent an email to the Obama for America list, arguing that the Republican strategy is “to suffocate the economy for the sake of what they think will be a political victory.”

In other words, the “sabotage” question — concerns that Republicans are deliberately hurting the country, holding back the economy on purpose, for the express purpose of undermining the Obama presidency — is gaining mainstream traction. No one close to the president has been willing to broach this provocative line, and now we have one of Obama’s top political aides raising the question on national television.

Greg Sargent added, “At the very least, this may be the first time a top Obama campaign official has linked this argument to the idea that this GOP behavior may be historically unprecedented, and that it may be a key reason for Congress’ historical unpopularity — it’s a broadening of the indictment.”

Quite right. And as the indictment broadens, so too does the number of prominent figures make the accusations. What was once a rarely-asked question, largely confined to lefty blogs, is now a concern being raised by two top officials on the president’s re-election team, two leading Democratic senators, and a wide variety of prominent pundits, including a Pulitzer Prize winner and a Nobel laureate.

This shouldn’t be terribly surprising, of course, given the larger circumstances. Just over the last few months, we’ve seen the Republican debt-ceiling scandal, the GOP-driven downgrade, the Republican rejection of any efforts to boost the economy, the GOP pleading with the Federal Reserve not to even try to improve conditions, repeated Republican threats of government shutdowns, GOP lawmakers announcing their opposition to their own economic ideas, and Republicans killing jobs bills, large and small.

Under the circumstances, it’s hardly shocking that folks might start to wonder out loud, “Hmm, maybe Republicans are trying to hurt the economy 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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  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on October 31, 2011 10:44 AM:

    And the beautiful thing is, the GOP can't fight back against these true allegations without moving the topic to the front burner.

  • marty on October 31, 2011 10:47 AM:

    Better late than never, I guess....

    This has been patently obvious, for what-months, at least- glad to see the insiders finally getting a toe in the water.

  • QuestionEverything on October 31, 2011 10:47 AM:

    I can't stomach watching the Fox network so I'm not sure about the Right Wing's response to this. What is their response to these accusations?

    Do they avoid answering? Do they have a credible, well-thought out response to address the issue? Do they make excuses for themselves? Do they make up crap? What exactly is the standard response right now in Right Wing circles?

  • Gandalf on October 31, 2011 11:02 AM:

    It doesn't take a Mensa member to see exactly what the republicans are doing. They've been sabotaging the economy and the country along with it for quite some time now. They have no justification for what they're doing other than the quest for power. It doesn't seem to matter to them how many people they hurt.

  • c u n d gulag on October 31, 2011 11:03 AM:

    Now every single damn Democrat needs to start saying this.

    Every day!

    Rinse and repeat!!!

    They called those of us who didn't support Little Boots, "Traitors!"
    Which was BS.

    The very least we can is is return the favor with the truth, and call them "Sabateur's."

    What CAPTCHA?
    Are you quizing me on Latin declensions?
    artillery, artillia

    Uhm - artilliatum?
    Is that right?

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 31, 2011 11:05 AM:

    One funny thing is in the Greg Sargent column yesterday on this, despite repeated demands from the liberal/progressive commenters for wingnuts to defend their boys, not one wingnut tried to defend against the charges. There's probably 2000 comments and not one wingnut mounted a defense. But there were plenty of "Socialist" comments from the wingnuts.

  • g on October 31, 2011 11:09 AM:

    Use their own words against them. The record is full of them.

  • Kathryn on October 31, 2011 11:13 AM:

    Ditto to" question everything." Also the prominent GOP treasonous reactions to Libyan outcome, ending of Iraq War on Bush timetable and plan to go to the mat in defense bill over trying terror suspects in military courts (no exceptions). Reportedly, they're willing to fillibuster defense bill to get their way, they think it's a good campaign issue. While those issues do not involve job creation, they are obviously attempts to undermine president, kind of lame attempts, in my opinion. Actually think such actions bolster growing sense that they will do and say anything to defeat Obama. Obama Derangement Syndrome makes the so called Bush Derangement Syndrome look like a sneeze.

  • jjm on October 31, 2011 11:14 AM:

    @g: right on!

    They've made their threats, their hostage taking, their placing defeat Obama as their number one priority, they ruined our credit rating, and so on very very publicly, openly, even, one might say, proudly.

    Time for them to have to try to eat their words. I don't think they can.

  • hells littlest angel on October 31, 2011 11:15 AM:

    Good. Make them deny it. Make them say they're not trying to sabotage the economy. Make them say it after every quashed vote, make them say it every day.

  • TCinLA on October 31, 2011 11:22 AM:

    And if they are "saboteurs", that means they are TRAITORS. And it's now time to take that word and start using it on them. The Party of Publick Patriotism is the Party of Private Treason. Which fits their traditional do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do operation perfectly.

  • Dave Munger on October 31, 2011 11:24 AM:

    What I am really hoping is that there is a smoking gun memo or video somewhere, showing conclusively that Republicans are conspiring to tank the economy. Wouldn't THAT make a fantastic "October Surprise" for the Obama campaign, and for Dems' prospects in Congress next fall!

  • liam foote on October 31, 2011 11:28 AM:

    Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) quotes Grover Norquist as saying, ‘We will make it so that a Democrat cannot govern as a Democrat.‘ See “How Grover Norquist hypnotized the GOP“ (Washington Post, June 30, 2011}

    Were one to ask Log Cabin Grover just how he and his minions would expect to make it so, how would he respond? Perhaps by advocating record levels of filibusters and all available arcane procedural maneuvers in Congress, by lockstep obstruction and delay, and by distracting the GOP base with a torrent of legislation on social issues as the country is pushed toward economic disaster and the potential for partisan violence.

  • Not Anonymous on October 31, 2011 11:36 AM:

    The Republicans are traitors to this country.

    I was part of the first wave of "unemployed" in 2008 right after the election. I was working at 3M. In the moths before the election I was subjected to FOX news talking points by my boss, shunned for having an Obama bumper sticker and ultimately "laid off." This last summer I interviewed for a job at a place called ATK (their up to their asses in military contracts). When I walked into the reception area to sign in, the receptionist had a large screen TV hanging over her head blaring (you guessed it) FOX news. Not more than 20 feet away in the waiting area was another big screen with FOX blaring. During my interview, the interviewer wasted no time administering the litmus test by throwing the president under the bus. Apparently, ATK has their fingers in the NASA pie via Morton-Thiokol and the interviewer seemed to suggest that Obama was bad for business. It was difficult for me to hide my contempt. Honestly, I would have had little trouble working on defense systems but working for these (God what do you call them?) . . . assholes? . . . was out of the question. I never got an offer from them anyway. The interviewer was so proud to tell me it was "company policy" to hire vets. I guess just not this former Marine. In 2008 I knew right away what these corporate fascists were up to. I have seen zero evidence that the Republican party is interested in doing anything but attack our president. It doesn't really get much more anti-American than that. Shit, they make Al-Qaeda look like the good guys.

  • emarsalis on October 31, 2011 11:56 AM:

    You guys are hilarious! 17 Job Bills have passed in Congress and sit idly in the Senate since Reid (D) will not call any of them to a vote. Complacent media types do not mention to you that these job bills had bipartisan support and now languish in the D. run Senate. You guys sit in your echo chamber and claim that the R's are blocking the economy?

  • robert on October 31, 2011 11:58 AM:

    It is about time-and I think we need to pause and thank OWS-that the Obama team gained the starch to call out the Rethug leaders as sabatuers of the nation's economy and the federal government for purse political advantage. But, let us go to the root of the problem: The Republican Party does not accept the legitimacy of any election which results in a Democrat achieving office. Republicans deny the legitmacy of majority rule unless they can contrive a majority. It is time to ask whether the Republican Party is a legitimate participant in our democracy, or a stalking horse for totalitarian government.

  • robert on October 31, 2011 12:01 PM:


    That's just BS. 17 cut taxes for the wealthy bills is what you mean. What are you doing hanging out here trying sell that crap anyway?

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 31, 2011 12:04 PM:

    Yeah everybody, what emarsalis said!!! Just look at the "jobs bills" Republicans have given to solve the problems they've caused. Can you say "deregulation?"


    What a joke.

  • DR on October 31, 2011 12:06 PM:

    I recently spoke to a "swing" voter, one who voted against Bush and for Obama. He is supporting Romney right now, because he feels that Obama can't get anything done since the Republicans hate him. He is hoping that if a "moderate" republican is elected, the congress will actually try to help the country out.

    So unfortunately this argument may be a little bit too little too late.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 31, 2011 12:16 PM:

    @DR: Lots of time between now and Nov. 2012

  • Peter C on October 31, 2011 12:19 PM:

    Yes, Republican sabotage of the economy is planned, blatant and obvious. They've talked about it all along. Mitch's quote is one; here are some more:

    "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem" - Ronald Reagan

    "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." - Grover Norquist

    This is a democracy; we ARE the government. But the tub is full of water and they are doing their best to drag us into the bathroom.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 31, 2011 12:21 PM:

    Speaking of hilarious as emarsalis does, consider this:


    (Considering the Senate wingnut "jobs plan.")

  • Anonymous on October 31, 2011 12:24 PM:


    Did you even bother to read the link you sent? There are too many regulations put on businesses as it is, and we are issueing 3,500 more regulations this year alone. Read each bill and then tell me it is tax cuts for the rich and deregulate everything. Lets enforce the best regulations curently on the books, not add new ones that only hinder job growth.
    Remove the blinders from your eyes folks.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 31, 2011 12:38 PM:

    @Anonymous (aka emarsalis): Hahahahahahahahaha...

    Have you considered this?


    You lose.

  • JW on October 31, 2011 2:02 PM:

    "[C]onfined to lefty blogs".

    Written, of course, by dirty fucking hippies (aka "Obama administration human punching bags").

    Strange how long it took the administration to begin to mull that thought over, isn't it?

  • Doug on October 31, 2011 8:18 PM:

    President Obama ran on a platform that included a promise to bring "change" to politics in DC. I believe that was one of the major reasons behind his election. Well, that and McCain's idea that Palin woud drag in hordes of HRC supporters. I also think that much of the disappointment many have in President Obama is because politics in DC HAVEN'T changed and, in fact, have become even MORE partisan. Anything that shows that this hyper-partisanship is Republican and one-sided certainly won't hurt the election chances of Mr. Obama and Democratic candidates in general.
    Personally, I'm also happy that OWS DID happen. It gives the President and the Democrats a chance to tie together various strands of discontent/disgust into a viable political campaign capable of overcoming the vast superiority Republicans are going to have in financing in 2012 (non-candidate specific, of course!). Nor can the Democrats be "accused" of formenting "mobs" as it's clearly plain the "mobs" showed up BEFORE they had Democratic support.
    This is a good thing...
    DR, the next time you see that "swing" voter, you might want to ask him why he thinks the Republicans shouldn't be doing what's good for the country NOW, rather than waiting for a "moderate" Republican to occupy the WH. You might also want to inform him that no matter which Republican sat in the Oval Office, the results out of Congress wouldn't be either moderate OR helpful to the country.
    Unless when he says "Congress will actually try to help the country out", what he really means is "Congress will really help the 1% out even more"...

  • Patango on November 01, 2011 12:39 AM:

    For real proof , look no further than the GOP back stabbing america and our troops over libya , the iraq war ending , and the killing of bin laudin , they did all that without blinking an eye , tanking the american economy for the GOP brand is no big deal compared to that after all ....

  • TN Sue on November 01, 2011 8:44 AM:

    Nothing wrong for standing with the Constitution. It is how this Country was founded and is why we have more freedom than any other Country in the world. Tea Party people are a group of American's that hold true to the Constitution and will go after all those who who try to regulate America into a socialist Country. If that means,go after ANY in office that try to 'Hope and Change' the rules of the Constitution, so be it. All those who would rather live in a big-government run Country, are free to leave the United States at any time.