We need to be honest with the public. This election is about them, not us. And we need to treat this election as the first step in retaking the government. We need to say to everyone on Election Day, "Those of you who helped make this a good day, you need to go out and help us finish the job."... 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.
-Republican Senate minority leader Mich McConnell, in an interview during the 2010 elections.
Mitch McConnell said that?!?... He admitted that on the record?!? That is embarrassing. Can I just say for the record -- that is pathetic."
-Former GOP congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.
It was embarrassing and pathetic. One election cycle had not yet come and gone and here was the GOP's top guy in the Senate, already working on the next. I can't think of a better example of the Republican Party's "permanent campaign" mode than McConnell's admission. It would be two years before the next election and, rather than focusing of governing, McConnell was concentrating on the 2012 presidential campaign. Want a recipe for disaster? There you go.
But of course the White House, being all post-partisan and above such trifling matters as political reality, pretty much ignored McConnell's confession. They would continue to reach across the aisle to try to work with Republicans and would continue to have their hand slapped back. Like a gambling addict plugging a slot machine, the president seemed trapped by his own losing streak and the belief that if he kept feeding the machine silver dollars, it would have to pay off eventually. Ok, so this time bipartisanship didn't work, but if he walked away, he was walking away from the one time -- perhaps the very next pull on that lever -- that it would.
Maybe it was the debt-limit fight that proved to Barack Obama that the machine he was playing was either rigged or broken. Or maybe there was some sort of Oval Office intervention. But the White House seems to have come to grips with reality; Republicans are only concerned about the elections and, since this is true, they have an actual disincentive to work with the president to solve real world problems for Americans.
The shift in tone comes from a fundraising letter from the Obama/Biden reelection team. Finally, a recognition of reality.
The U.S. Senate is supposed to vote on the American Jobs Act as early as tonight.
It's a bill that will put people to work immediately, and it contains proposals that members of both parties have said in the past that they'd support.
But Senate Republicans want to block it. Not because they have a plan that creates jobs right now -- not one Republican, in Congress or in the presidential race, does. They only have a political plan.
Their strategy is to suffocate the economy for the sake of what they think will be a political victory. They think that the more folks see Washington taking no action to create jobs, the better their chances in the next election. So they're doing everything in their power to make sure nothing gets done.
And, of course, Mitch McConnell managed to do just that last night -- make sure nothing gets done. The filibuster is so worn out by this Senate that many people believe that the Constitution mandates 60 votes to pass anything in that chamber. Finally, the White House gets it; these aren't people you work with, these are people you have to work around. They have absolutely no interest in doing anything other than winning elections, just as McConnell promised just about two years ago.
"I'd still like to see Obama say this directly," writes Kevin Drum. "After all, he really doesn't need to worry about bipartisan comity anymore since Republicans have made it crystal clear that they aren't voting for any of his proposals no matter how nice he plays. So why not just tell the truth?"
Good question. Everyone's convinced that the White House is going to take a page from Harry Truman and run against a do-nothing congress; why not point out why they're doing nothing and what it means to the American people? Republicans have put voters' real-world problems on hold for two years, just to win an election. They've left the wreckage of the Bush economy to smolder, because they think it makes the president look bad. If they're more interested in campaigning than in governing, do you really want to give one of them the keys to the White House?
Someone has to point out the obvious: that the GOP as it stands today is completely unfit to govern anything larger and more complex than a Ronald Reagan fan club. Their idea of a brilliant election strategy translates into incompetent governance and we just can't afford any more of it.
At the very least, since an election forces it, we can finally expect the president to become partisan.