He made a point of saying that he looks forward to hearing from McConnell and Boehner on what their agenda for Congress will be. And that he's willing to work on those areas where they can agree.
While some will undoubtably view this as pre-capitulation, its actually an amazing power play as well as a reprisal of conciliatory rhetoric as a ruthless strategy.
One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that's not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists -- it's a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.Over the last 6 years, Minority Leader McConnell has been able to embrace a "post-policy" approach focused on total obstruction. Now that Republicans control both chambers of Congress, President Obama is basically saying "puts your cards on the table and let's see what you've got."
After last night's election results, both National Review Online and Rush Limbaugh are counseling McConnell to keep up the obstruction. Jonathan Chait pretty much nailed what McConnell will see as his most effective strategy going forward:
McConnell’s next play is perfectly clear. His interest lies in creating two more years of ugliness and gridlock. He does not want spectacular, high-profile failures that command public attention — no shutdowns, no impeachment. Instead, he wants tedious, enervating stalemate. McConnell needs to drain away any possibility of hope and excitement from government, so that the disengaged Democratic voters remain disengaged in 2016.So if you were President Obama, how would you chose to counter that? The truth is, no matter what you do, you're not going to get liberal policies enacted with Republicans in control of both chambers. If you simply yell and scream about obstruction, you look like a weak ineffective victim.
Today the President simply called on McConnell to "put up or shut up." That's his best way of undermining McConnell when/if the gridlock continues. In other words, its the best power play he has now - given what the midterm electorate did yesterday.
I also think that long before he decided to run for president, Barack Obama diagnosed what he thought was our biggest problem. No matter how daunting the challenges, what has kept us from tackling them has been our inability to do this:
Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will.Until we can get there, we won't be able to move forward on much of anything else.
So...please proceed, Senator McConnell :-)