Monday, January 5, 2015

McConnell's New Strategy: Paint President Obama as the Obstructionist

Let's start with a short walk down memory lane.

Back in 2008, the Republican Party was in trouble. As a result of the Bush/Cheney administration, the country's economy was in free-fall and we were entangled in two wars in the Middle East that seemed to be accomplishing nothing more than to kill thousands of people and empty out the coffers of the U.S. treasury.

Beyond that, there was no real leader of the Party for folks to rally round. Sarah Palin might have been that figure for the truly delusional on the right. But even the McCain campaign that chose her as a running mate was done with her antics.

Into that vacuum stepped Senator Mitch McConnell. He'll never be the "face of the Republican Party." But he is a master political strategist. And as Michael Grunwald told us, he and Rep. Eric Cantor developed a strategy the Republicans in Congress would use in response to a popular in-coming president as well as a Senate and House controlled by Democrats.
...the Republican plot to obstruct President Obama before he even took office, including secret meetings led by House GOP whip Eric Cantor (in December 2008) and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (in early January 2009) in which they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular President-elect during an economic emergency. “If he was for it,” former Ohio Senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.”
Now, here we are six years later with a Republican-controlled House and Senate. The master strategist needs to come up with a new game. Since the party of no government doesn't have to worry about actually passing any legislation, the plan is to try to make President Obama look like the obstructionist. Here's how Sen. McConnell talked about that yesterday.
“We’ll be voting on things I know he’s not going to like,” McConnell said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“And I hope we can put them on his desk,” he said.
McConnell went on to say that, first up will be a vote on approving the Keystone Pipeline. Never mind that the Nebraska Supreme Court is about to rule on whether or not to let that project pass through their state. It's all about setting President Obama up to use his veto pen. After that - McConnell suggests that they'll pass legislation gutting Obamacare. They know exactly how the President will respond to that.

Of course Sen. McConnell mouths all the right platitudes.
McConnell stated he’s “not opposed” to working in a bipartisan fashion with the Obama administration. Americans want the “dysfunction” to stop, he said. “When the American people elect divided government, they’re not saying they don’t want anything done. What they are saying is they want things in the political center, things that both sides can agree on.”
But if he really meant that he would do as President Obama has done - talk about starting with things where there is the possibility of finding common ground, like trade deals, tax reform and rebuilding our infrastructure. Instead, Sen. McConnell just put it right out there - they'll be working to pass "thinks I know he's not going to like," counting on the President to veto them, and then claiming that he's the obstructionist.

To be honest, you have to give McConnell credit for being an expert at playing these kinds of games. If he would use them to actually try to get something done for the American people, he could go down in history as one of the great Senators. But for anyone who is actually paying attention, these moves are all about positioning for power - not about getting anything done.

As long as Sen. McConnell is only interested in playing games, President Obama will rely on his "pen and phone" strategy to actually move the ball down the field during this fourth quarter.


  1. I fear, with the MSM in the GOP thrall, that this will succeed. It is going to take a full court press from the Congressional Dems as well as from the White House to lay the responsibility right where it belongs - on our increasingly dysfunctional Congress. With Yoho and Gohmert vying for Speaker, all we can hope for is that one succeeds and the insanity becomes crystal clear. People are too easily hornswoggled by the Chuck I-have-no-responsibility-for-accuracy Todds of the world.

    1. That's exactly why I wanted to write this. We need to call the game out early and often as this unfolds.

  2. I say, so what? Who cares? The American public has shown in no uncertain terms that the term obstructionist is a label they're willing to vote for. If that's all he's got, then yay.

    1. However creepy that observation is, I fear you are absolutely correct. I do think Nancy is correct in saying we need to be extremely vocal to call this out and make clear that obstruction is a very dangerous game.

    2. Let's not forget the part about...if that's all McConnell's got in his bag of tricks, we're in pretty good shape. If he wants to spend the next two years playing chicken with the President just so he can pass the obstructionist label onto the President, let him. The President never has to run for office again for the rest of his life. It won't affect the decisions Democratic hopefuls make about whether or not to embrace or distance themselves from the President's policies and legacy. Plus I suspect Liberals will be energized by all the bold moves the President makes in the fourth quarter. Poor old McConnell will be singing his one note aria to the choir, while the rest of us go about moving forward. I'm not in the least concerned by this development. I would bet Obama isn't concerned either. He's a counter-puncher. The more opposition he gets from the GOP, the better he'll perform.