I have long told President Obama’s most ardent supporters to read Charles Krauthammer. He’s a guaranteed angry read. But if you set aside his rhetorical rage and focus on the substance, Krauthammer does a good job of making the right’s case against the president. Think of him as Chris Christie to George Will’s Tim Pawlenty.
Today’s Krauthammer column is a fine example of what I’m talking about. The headline says it all. “The case against reelection.” In it, he argues that Obama’s presidency has been a failure and that Mitt Romney should make the “ideological” case rather than the “stewardship” case against him. “Obama’s ideology — and the program that followed — explains the failure of these four years.”
Thanks to a new book by Michael Grunwald, we know with certainty that what Krauthammer argues is a load of bunk. Republicans are complicit in the failures they rail against.
At first, we thought organized Republican recalcitrance against the president started in October 2010 after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) famously said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Then came Robert Draper’s book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives,” this spring. As the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reported in April, the book reports on a dinner of leading Republicans held the night of Obama’s inauguration.
For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama’s legislative platform.
"If you act like you're the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes [Rep. Kevin] McCarthy [R-Calif.] as saying. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”
And Stein highlights this useful passage from Draper’s book:
The dinner lasted nearly four hours. They parted company almost giddily. The Republicans had agreed on a way forward:
Go after Geithner. (And indeed Kyl did, the next day: ‘Would you answer my question rather than dancing around it — please?’)
Show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies. (Eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor would hold the House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama’s economic stimulus plan.)
Begin attacking vulnerable Democrats on the airwaves. (The first National Republican Congressional Committee attack ads would run in less than two months.)
Win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and the Senate in 2012.
Now Greg Sargent at The Plum Line is sounding the alarm over a revelation in “The New New Deal” by Grunwald. Vice President Joe Biden told the author that during the transition, “seven different Republican Senators” told him that “McConnell had demanded unified resistance.” This was after the 2008 election but before Obama and Biden took office.
“The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’ ” Biden says.
Nevermind the nation was falling off the fiscal cliff. Nevermind the global economic system was hanging in the balance. Nevermind we were on the verge of another Great Depression. When the nation needed single-minded focus, the Republican political establishment put power over the national interest.
So, the next time you hear Republicans and conservatives bloviating about the “failures” of the Obama presidency, remember the role they played in them. And remember how their resistance hurt the country they are elected to help govern.