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.”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.
“And I hope we can put them on his desk,” he said.
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.