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“The single most important thing”

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010



There’s lots of buzz these days about how Barack Obama would need to recalibrate his presidency in the wake of a major power shift on Capitol Hill. To my ancient ears, the buzz conjures memories of 1995, when Bill Clinton reinvented himself in the wake of Newt Gingrich’s House Republican takeover by governing as a centrist, by doing deals with the Republican leaders. And now, nearly 15 years later, it feels as if the past is prologue; Obama is widely being urged to take the same route.

The problem, however, is that deals can’t be done unless both sides compromise. In the House, from 1995 to 1997, Gingrich compromised. In the Senate, GOP leader Bob Dole compromised. But that was the old Republican party. The new Republican party, the one that is presumably poised to win back at least one congressional chamber, considers compromise to be a form of surrender.

Why do I say it? Because the Republicans are already signaling it.

In the new issue of National Journal, a Washington magazine, GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell said that, in the aftermath of a midterm victory, he wants to “finish the job.” The reporter then asked, “What’s the job?”

McConnell replied: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

He added: “Our single biggest political goal is to give our nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful.” And he dissed the Republican leaders who did deals with Clinton: “We need to work smarter than we did (in the ’90s).”

There you have it: what the GOP most wants to “achieve” is a partisan victory. In the short run, this is a blueprint for perpetual brinkmanship and gridlock.

And McConnell is hardly alone in his belief that bipartisanship is for wimps. Here’s what Mike Pence, the rising House Republican star, said the other day on conservative talk host Hugh Hewitt’s radio show: “There will be no compromise on repealing Obamacare. There will be no compromise on stopping Democrats from growing government and raising taxes. And I haven’t been clear enough yet, let me say again: No compromise.”

It’s tempting to dismiss this as pre-election bluster aimed merely at ginning up and maximizing the tea-party vote; Pence knows full well that “repealing Obamacare” won’t happen, not with Obama wielding a veto pen. It’s standard practice on the eve of a midterm election for a party to rhetorically stoke its base. But what’s really going on is far more profound. McConnell, Pence, and other elected Republican leaders are basically hostage to their tea-party base.

Starting next January (if we assume a GOP takeover of one or both chambers), any Republican who tries to work across the aisle with Obama is likely to be savaged by the base. Which means that the budget deal-making process would be quite fascinating. Out of necessity, Republican leaders would have to break bread with Obama simply to pass the budget. But what happens if the Republican leaders sign on to a red-ink budget that fails to radically slash the federal safety net? Would the tea-partiers insist, in the spirit of “no compromise,” that the Republicans shut down the government instead?

Perhaps McConnell, in particular, can be excused for his rhetorical brinkmanship; like so many other Republicans, he may be living in terror of being primaried down the road by a tea-partier on his right flank. But for a Senate leader to declare that defeating Obama in 2012 is a more important goal than doing deals for the American people in 2011…well, I’ll give the last word to talk show host Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman. As he said on the air yesterday:

“Mitch McConnell said that?!?…He admitted that on the record?!? That is embarrassing…Can I just say for the record – that is pathetic.”

——-

I had more to say today in an hour-long Live Chat on another website. I’m always happy to invoke Neil Young.


45 Comments

  • portly says:

    Here’s the thing. You conservatives rant and whine about the “Obama-Reid-Pelosi” Axis of Evil and about how you want to repeal their “Big Government” agenda. Thing is, what are we to make of the McConnell-Boehner-Koch Big Business agenda? Contrary to Saint Ronnie’s dictum that “government is the problem”, government saved the private sector’s BACON when it ran our economy off the rails during the Bush years. NOW you expect us to take seriously the idea that Big Business and the super-wealthy (ie the Teabag sugardaddy Koch Brothers) will be our benevolent saviors again? Just get the evil Big Government agenda out of our way? Sadly, the fickle American electorate watching Fox News seems poised to send us all back into the cesspool of conservative ideology…almost certainly cementing a swing back to the left in 2012. You could sure get dizzy from all this veering back and forth.

    • Steve says:

      Actually the tea party folks were dead set against the government saving the private sector’s bacon. That’s exacty what made them so upset! The market economy will naturally punish companies that become profligate, inefficient, or illegal.

  • swedesboromike says:

    A Franklin & Marshall poll out today has Toomey up by 7. I am wondering if Pollman would like to revisit his article from a few days ago as the Sestak puppy ad seems to have backfired as several polls now have the election trending away from Sestak. But that is probably not permitted by the leftists in charge of NPR.

  • swedesboromike says:

    “Ever mindful of his district’s prevailing political philosophy, Adler has consistently characterized himself as centrist and moderate, pointing repeatedly to his vote against the overhaul of the nation’s health-care system as evidence of his independence from partisan demands.”…………………. This is what the far left and Obama do not get. The wide majority of the Democrats are running away from the Obama agenda when they run for re-election. With that said I am sure Adler would be a rubber stamp for Obama is his vote was truly needed. Same with Manchin in WV.

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    • F. Inahoy says:

      And that’s why Adler will not get my vote on Tuesday. Adler is responsive to his constituents and doesn’t hide from them as so many do, which is to his credit. However, even though Adler plays up his centrist/moderate credentials, the reality is that he’s been a reliable vote for the entire Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda. As Obama is so fond of say, it is time for a change.

  • Tom - wilmington, de says:

    This is more pertinent to yesterday’s post, but in Clark County Nevada, where Rory Reid is a county commissioner and the voting machine technicians are members of SEIU, there are problems with the machines. Seems people have logged into the machines, and lo and behold Harry Reid’s name was already checked off as being their choice for Senate. Imagine that, and this is not even a Republican controlled district.

  • landscape says:

    How is “The Single Most Important Thing” good for our country and the average Joe and Jane? Wasn’t “Compromise” one of the main reasons for success of the young Republic? How can it be a good thing that we are moving away from what made us successful as a country? What am I missing?

  • JimR says:

    So what’s the problem with one or both sides taking the high road – admitting that they didn’t do it very well before and saying that now they want to do what will work for the country and be the first to offer a compromise. Nah

    • swedesboromike says:

      “elections have consequences” and “I won.” Barack Obama, January 2009

      • JimR says:

        You’re making my point. Someone has to take the high road. If we go on forever with ‘an eye for an eye’ there’s a lot of blind people walking around. Maybe the “R’s” have to take the high road, but declaring that the single goal is to choke Obama isn’t it

        • swedesboromike says:

          Jim- We’ll have to see how it plays out. First order of businesss will be getting the extension of the 2003 tax cuts to Obama’s desk. Then we’ll see what happens. Yesterday Obama said Republicans need to get to the back of the bus. That kind of rhetoric doesn’t foster a culture of compromise.

  • NE Philly says:

    You reap what you sow! I can’t wait for the President reap a highly partisan GOP Congress to deal with for his last 2 years in office:)

    • Rich says:

      Be careful what you wish for, my friend. Clinton played Gingrinch like a fat, dumb carp, and I would not bet against Obama learning to do the same, especially with tips from the esteemed ex-Prez to guide him.

      • swedesboromike says:

        You realize that sound governing isn’t a sport? right? The Republican congress in the 90’s helped to almost balance the budget. Kudos to Clinton for taking credit for it but l you shouldn’t refer to the former speaker of house as a” fat, dumb, carp. “

      • NE Philly says:

        The difference between Clinton and Obama is that Clinton was pragmatic. President Obama is a liberal ideologue that will never compromise, imho. He did have the chance to show he was a different kind of politician in the beginning, but proved to be nothing but a Chicago-style bully. We shall see if he can change because he is going to get the chance come January 2011!

  • swedesboromike says:

    Wow! What a bunch of bluster from Polman. Let’s not put the cart before the horse. The election is next Tuesday and the new congress would not be ushered in until January. Things like Cap n Trade and Card Check will not get passed as they lacked support from many Democrats. Obama holds the veto pen on repeal of the healthcare bill so that is ” dead ” up arrival. So basically it is back to the Clinton days when a Republican congress stopped the Democratic president from spending. And Obama will could be a benefactor of that except that much damage has been done as his healthcare bill is an economy killer.

    • NigeltheMastiff says:

      Mike, you do realize that the stock market has closed higher than at any time in the last six months, don’t you? Ford just announced record profits. I fear your narrative (that’s you favorite word, so I thought I’d use it) might be a tad tarnished and tired.

      • swedesboromike says:

        Nigel, that’s a good thing no doubt. I look at that every single day. And perhaps a Republican congress will help even more as business will have some certainty that economy killing policies like Cap and Trade and Card check will not be passed. Hopefully the Bush tax cuts that went mostly to the middle class will be made permanent so there is even more certainty in the economy. And you know who is going to be the biggest benefactor of this? Barack Obama. Do you agree?

      • tom - wilmington de says:

        Nigel, the market is higher because there is no other place to invest. Interest rates are at record lows. TIPS the other day were sold with a NEGATIVE yield. The FED is monetizing the debt, which could lead to disaster. The market rise is illusory in that once interest rates begin to rise, the same investors that are in the market will flee it and buy other investments as a hedge against looming inflation. So do not bank on the rising market.

  • F. Inahoy says:

    Democrats and Liberals are the most tolerant people in the world, as long as you agree with them. And if you don’t? Well you’re either a bigot, a racist, an obstructionist ideologue, or all of the above.

    • Tom - wilmington, de says:

      To liberals, compromise means you come over to their side and their beliefs. When liberals say “NO” they are defending the worker, the little people. When conservatives say “NO”, they are obstructionist. We shall see how much liberals in Congress want to work with Republicans in January. I wonder how many of these Democrats coming out against Obamacare will actually vote to repeal parts of it (1099 provision, individual mandate) if they do win re-election.

      • Rich says:

        Tom, Obama’s health insurance reform isn’t getting repealed. He can and will veto any attempt to do so. What worries me is the Roberts Supreme Court. They (or at least 5 of them) don’t seem to understand that they don’t make the laws, and are easily as activist in the wrong direction as the Warren court was in the right direction.

        • swedesboromike says:

          Rich- turnaround is fair play. You pass a bill along a party line vote then there should be no problem if the mandate to buy healthcare is repealed by a 5-4 Supreme court vote. The Supreme court isn’t going to repeal the bill just the mandate.

        • tom - wilmington de says:

          Rich, right, they do not make the laws, but interpret them for their constitutionality.At least the Roberts court, if it strikes down Obamacare, will be acting on an actual passed law and not creating one where none previously existed.

    • portly says:

      When you come up with some reasonable ideas to agree with, you’ll get some respect. When bigotry, racism and obstructionism get banished from the public discourse, you’ll not hear it from us. Look around you, friend…and point out where you see these things in the current public discourse. Of course not all Republicans are these things. Its out there however, there’s just no denying it, what with all the “anger” and the “take back our country” BS. Look no further than your hero George Bush to get the genisis of the “My Way Or The Highway” mentality. Ask Karl Rove why he thinks the politics of wedge issues work best for the minority Republicans. Above all, quit yer whinin’

      • swedesboromike says:

        Gee Portly- bigotry, racism? enough already. That’s your one size fits all response to anyone who has a difference of opinion on political matters. You lack substance. Turn off the MSNBC and do some reading instead. It will make you smarter.

      • swedesboromike says:

        KARL ROVE, DICK CHEYNEY, SHADOWING CHARACTERS, KOCH BROTHERS, KOCH BROTHERS, FOX NEWS!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH ATTACK ATTACK ATACK. Time to turn of the MSNBC Portly

      • F. Inahoy says:

        And Portly proves my very point. Only when people come up with ideas he agrees with will he give his respect. I’ll amend my previous statement by adding that democrats and liberals are also astoundingly arrogant too.

  • Rich says:

    Hard to believe Republicans are so short-sighted. The ‘shut down the government’ strategy didn’t work in 1995 against Clinton, and in fact blew up in Gingrinch’s face and got him canned as majority leader. Taking the same strategy and planning to execute it for 2 entire years is clearly self-destructive; the Republicans will become totally identified as the party of do-nothing obstructionism (as if they aren’t already!), and they will get annihilated in 2012. There will be a lot of pain and suffering in store for a lot of people before that happens, unfortunately. Some people just have to learn the hard way.

  • Paul says:

    The problems facing the country need inteligent discussion and all the Republicans can do is scream “NO”. We need both sides to work together, it’s a shame that the country will end up failing because of an attitude of no compromise from both parties bases.

    • Tom - wilmington, de says:

      Yeah, look at all the compromise done over the past two years and the shape the country is in today. Of course that is the fault of Republicans.

      • portly says:

        Read Polman’s post fercrissakes!! Republican leaders from McConnell thru Boner thru Canter thru Kyl and on and on SAY OUT LOUD that their purpose is the destruction of the Obama administration! I understand that this makes you feel uncomfortable to the point of full denial, but it’s out there in reality, my friend! We know about Rove’s “UP IS DOWN” theory of political argument…we saw it for 8 years, Tom! You’re not foolin ANYbody around here with that mis-direction play you try to pull after each of DP’s posts…jeebus…

        • Tom - wilmington, de says:

          Portly, evidently, the majority of voters want Republicans to stop the Obama/Reid/Pelosi agenda as well or else Republicans would not be polling so well. Why is it 67% of the country believes we are on the wrong track?

        • swedesboromike says:

          Portly- Perhaps we should judge Republicans by what they do. Sound fair? Most of Bush’s domestic agenda was approved with bipartisanship. Like the education bill ( written by Ted Kennedy), pasage of prescription drug bill, creation of the office of Homeland Security. Judge by facts, not rhetoric.

  • NigeltheMastiff says:

    For heaven’s sake. Will everyone hold grudges forever? It’s past time to wipe the slate clean and start anew. And I mean BOTH SIDES. I have said time and time again that we MUST start compromising or we will fail rather spectacularly. But day after day it’s the same circular dialogue on this site and across the country. I can certainly bend a bit. I remember last year we were discussing abortion, and one poster suggested this compromise: what if late-term abortions were made illegal and others were allowed to stand? I think it’s a pretty good compromise. How about selling insurance across state lines? I’m ok with that. What are some liberal ideas you could compromise on?

    • Tom - wilmington, de says:

      Nigel, agreed we need to compromise. However, it is rather hypocritical for Obama to run around the country saying Republicans will need to come to him, and also hypocritical for Polman to suggest Republicans are now saying they will not compromise with Obama after the past two years of one party rule. Pelosi and Reid even shut Republicans out of crafting legislation, limited/prevented amendments, curtailed debate, and made backroom deals. Now, when Republicans are saying they will not compromise, people like Polman and liberals are aghast. Funny. As for a liberal position on which I could compromise, I could go along with a guest worker program if and only if the border is controlled, and any guest worker either needs to apply for citizenship, apply for permanent resident status or return home within 5 years.

    • Tom - wilmington, de says:

      Nigel, did you read David Brooks today? Good column.

      • swedesboromike says:

        sorry Tom, I didn’t read your post before I asked the same question

      • NigeltheMastiff says:

        I did read it. Thought it was pretty funny. Look, like many people, I’m just sick of almost all politicians and their inflammatory rhetoric. Which is why I just can’t stand to hear any more yeah buts. You can slam Pelosi and Obama all you want for not compromising (though I do remember Obama reaching out a few times), but the Republicans do and did the same thing. It’s time for all of that to stop. There should be compromising positions from both parties. I’m just sick to death of all this belligerence.

        • Tom - wilmington, de says:

          Nigel, Bush compromised on NCLB, immigration reform and Medicare Drugs. Look what it got him, with all the vitriol thrown at him by liberals and democrats. Was it worth it? No.

    • swedesboromike says:

      Nigel, did you read David Brooks column today in the NY Times? Little bit left of center for my liking but a pretty good column. Any thoughts?

  • Tom - wilmington, de says:

    Like Obama told Eric Cantor when meeting at the White House and Cantor offered some ideas on the stimulus, (paraphrasing)…”We’ll do it my way, I won”. Aren’t liberals also complaining that Obama compromised too much with Republicans on healthcare by giving in on the public option? Where are all the liberals talking about compromise and reaching across the aisle? Obama also told Latino’s yesterday that they had to “punish our enemies”. Was he talking about Al Qaeda or the Taliban? No, he was talking about Republicans.

  • jmc says:

    “We don’t mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back.” Barack Obama 10/25/10. Gotta love the President’s spirit of compromise. DP, did you ever write about how Democrats should compromise with Republicans after the 08 election? I doubt it. For liberals, compromise is only necessary when they are on the short end of the stick.

    • swedesboromike says:

      Anyone remember ” we won the election, we will write the bills “…………….. That was Nancy Pelosi in 2008. Ya know, those compromising Democrats

      • Rich says:

        Well, I think that was in response to some GOP expectation that THEY were going to be writing the bills, given that the Republican idea of compromise is, “I get everything I want, and you get whatever I say you can have”.

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