Political Animal


October 24, 2011 12:35 PM If the villain’s shoe fits…

By Steve Benen

As far as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is concerned, the White House has a “storyline” that isn’t true.

“Their storyline is that there must be some villain out there who’s keeping this administration from succeeding.”

The comment comes almost exactly a year to the day after McConnell conceded on the record that defeating the president in 2012 is his “top priority,” adding, “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.”

As Jonathan Cohn explained, “I wasn’t that shocked by McConnell’s original statement. Heck, I even appreciated the candor. But if you’re going to make the president’s failure your top goal — and if you’re going to brag about it — you really can’t get upset when the president blames you for it.”

Greg Sargent added, “[T]here’s simply no longer any doubt that — whether for principled, ideological, or cynical reasons — Senate Republicans are denying Obama support for his policies partly to damage him politically.”

It’s worth pausing, from time to time, to appreciate just how unambiguous this record is. There “must be some villain out there” undermining the White House’s ability to succeed? There’s no reason to pretend that Mitch McConnell hasn’t earned the label.


* In March 2010, McConnell explained his decision to try to kill health care reform from the outset, regardless of merit or Democratic compromises, by demanding unanimous Republican opposition: “It was absolutely critical that everybody be together because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out.” It’s a dynamic that made compromise, quite literally, impossible.

* Soon after, McConnell explained the importance he and the House GOP leadership put on “unify[ing] our members in opposition” to everything Democrats propose, because unanimous Republican disagreement would necessarily make Democratic ideas less popular. “Public opinion can change, but it is affected by what elected officials do,” McConnell conceded. “Our reaction to what [Democrats] were doing had a lot to do with how the public felt about it. Republican unity in the House and Senate has been the major contributing factor to shifting American public opinion.”

* In August 2010, McConnell said he’ll only consider negotiating with the White House if they agree to accept center-right proposals, with no exceptions, even if there’s a Democratic majority.

* In October 2010, McConnell conceded on the record that defeating the president in 2012 is his “top priority,” above literally everything else.

* In June 2011, McConnell said if President Obama asks him to consider an idea Republicans don’t like, it’s evidence of the president acting “in bad faith.”

* In August 2011, McConnell admitted that he and his Republican colleagues were willing to hold the nation and its economy “hostage,” threatening to destroy the United States’ full faith and credit on purpose.

* And two weeks ago, McConnell had enough breathtaking chutzpah to blame the White House for Washington gridlock.

“Their storyline is that there must be some villain out there who’s keeping this administration from succeeding.” The storyline appears to be accurate and the identity of the villain appears obvious.

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
  • TR on October 24, 2011 12:40 PM:

    I'm not sure if Mitch McConnell is the villain. But he sure is an unmitigated asshole.

  • c u n d gulag on October 24, 2011 12:46 PM:

    McConnell is such an insipid, bland, bad guy.
    So is Orange Boehner.

    I mean, these guys pale in comparison to Lott-Frist in the Senate, and Gingrich-DeLay-Hastert in the House.

    Maybe you need to write in greater detail about these inane, but dangerous, drones, Steve?

    And I may have a good working title for it:
    "The Banality of Villainy."

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on October 24, 2011 12:52 PM:

    Well, the great thing is by repeating the line, "there must be some villain out there," Mitch is once again legitimizing the idea that it's a worthy subject of debate. The Republicans might be way off their game, because until recently they were really good at setting the media agenda. Remember back in the day when we used to talk about the deficit while the economy was crumbling?

  • stormskies on October 24, 2011 12:55 PM:

    McConnell no longer has a soul. He has made his 'Faustian deal' long ago in order to have the power and privilege he has. His 'Faustian deal' demanded that he remained permanently bent over, pants down, and being repeatedly fucked by his Corporate masters. As a result he is nothing more than a puppet on their string, nothing more than a dancing monkey with it's little hat on tethered to the corporate organ player. He is nothing more than a reduced human mass of quivering flesh that has been so repeatedly fucked by his Corporate masters that the only word he can clearly say, squeaking, is NEXT. McConnell no longer has a soul. In it's place in nothing more than a rancid abscess caused by his Faustian Deal with Evil itself.

  • Joe Friday on October 24, 2011 12:58 PM:

    McConnell: "Their storyline is that there must be some villain out there who's keeping this administration from succeeding."

    Who else does he think it is, Snidely Whiplash ?

  • kevo on October 24, 2011 1:00 PM:

    McConnell's efforts have been no holds barred, in your face, and now he's a bit upset he's getting called out?

    What a big cowardly baby - he gives white folk a bad name! -Kevo

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on October 24, 2011 1:09 PM:

    Joe Friday -- I think you may have unwittingly nailed it. Clearly the purpose of phrasing it like this is to caricature the President. "Obama's so useless, he's blaming his failure on imaginary bogeymen! We all know there's not really anyone trying to wreck the economy."

    Poor Mitch is about to get blindsided because he's still rooted in the 2010 narrative, and what's emerging is the 2012 narrative.

    2010: "Everyone knows that major political parties do NOT act outside their perceived best interest of the United States! It's not even worth considering, so let's move to a serious topic, like.... HOW TO SHRINK THE SIZE OF GOVERNMENT!!!!!"

    2012: "Some people say the Republicans are trying to sabotage the economy, but others say that's just silly. Coming up, we'll have a Republican and a Democrat duke it out on this topic."

    If that 2012 narrative emerges, it's probably game, set, and match for the Dems no matter how many poor people the Pubs keep from the polls. Fortunately, Mitch is going to help us establish it.

  • slappy magoo on October 24, 2011 1:17 PM:

    I'm not one to think everything the Republicans do is based on racism - as far as I'm concerned, racism is the venomous icing on their hate cake, but it's not the cake itself.
    But the way they obstruct policy while at the same time blaming Obama for their obstructionist policies reminds me so much of old school race baiting, where a group of white guys would surround a black guy and taunt him in a way that he'd feel so threatened, eventually he'd lash out...so they could then accuse him of "acting like an animal" when they were just engaging in some harmless good-natured ribbing. It's true what they say about n***ers, right? No more civilized than the day we brought them here, right?

    This...is kinda like that. Prevent progress while accusing Obama of incompetence, and if he calls you out on it, accuse him of being shrill, partisan, and trying to hide his incompetence by shifting blame on those honest...hard-working...white guys what only want to improve the economy if this savage would only get in line...

    The one thing that makes the GOP tactics "kinda like that" without being "exactly like that" is the fact that they would have employed similar tactics on President Hillary Clinton or any other Democratic President...and they probably always will. It's just that the color of Obama's skin allows another layer to attract their base beyond mere us-vs-them-ism. It's the icing, not the cake.

  • SYSPROG on October 24, 2011 2:15 PM:

    Oh c'mon. Post Turtle IS a villain. See this:


    for more.

    Also Steve, if you want MORE villains report on the RSC and the members leaving because of the 'policies' they try to enforce on their members.

  • Mitch on October 24, 2011 2:27 PM:

    @slappy magoo,

    Well said.

    It's not that the GOP is in itself racist, it is just that they take advantage of racism to acheive their goals, a la the Southern Strategy.

    I think the same about the Repugs and Christianity, especially abortion. They rail against the "evils" of abortion to drum up votes, but once in power (2001-2006, for example when they controlled all three branches) they make no moves to outlaw it.

    Basically, the souless, greedy plutocrats who run the GOP will do and say ANYTHING to win, and they almost always appeal to the lowest denominator. They play to the basest of instincts, especially fear of the "other"; as you eloquently put it, us-vs-them-ism.

    It's actually very smart of them. Cold and evil, sure, but very smart. People are easily led by their fears. History has shown this over and again, going back to Caesar at least.

  • JW on October 24, 2011 3:05 PM:

    Benen: I was refused a trademark on the term. Feel free use it anytime.

    "The GOP is the party of rule or ruin".

  • bubba on October 24, 2011 3:43 PM:

    BHO should start each and every one of his speeches on his current tour with video of McConnell stating what he stated about the GOP's biggest political goal (and if there are other pols who stated something similar, include clips of them as well). Set the stage. Play a little hardball. Remind the country, over and over again, of this. It will sink in eventually.

  • Schtick on October 24, 2011 6:09 PM:

    I'm with you bubba. Now that people are listening about the jobs bill they not only should throw in clips of McTurtle, but the numbers relating to the votes including the names of the dems that voted with the tealiban. I'd love to see something like that play after every single tealiban ad from now until election day 2012. It would be a hoot.

    crapcha....eironim Webster....I thought it was Merriam

  • Rich2506 on October 24, 2011 9:51 PM:

    What really infuriates me is how the legacy media continues to treat McConnell's obstructionism. The NY Times ran a piece this Sunday and my local paper reprinted much of it today. It's a horrible, uninformative piece that completely fails to inform the reader as to what's going on and why Obama's jobs plan is unable to get through the Senate. All they did was a he-said, she-said piece where the problem was described, McConnell gave his side of it and the piece then moved on. People would be angry at the right folks, but our media doesn't properly tell them who's to blame, even when thw more-informed know precisely who's at fault.

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