I’ve got my copy of Michael Grunwald’s new book on the making of stimulus, The New New Deal, and there are a lot of juicy nuggets in it. In particular, it may shed new light on the degree to which Republicans may have decided to deny Obama all cooperation for the explicit purpose of rendering his presidency a failure — making it easier for them to mount a political comback after their disastrous 2008 losses.
Grunwald has Joe Biden on the record making a striking charge. Biden says that during the transition, a number of Republican Senators privately confided to him that Mitch McConnell had given them the directive that there was to be no cooperation with the new administration — because he had decided that “we can’t let you succeed.”
Here’s the relevant passage, from page 207:
Biden says that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any cooperation on many votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican Senators, who said, `Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’ he recalls. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “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.
The vice president says he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along these lines.
Biden, of course, has a history of outsized comments. But two former Republican Senators are confirming the gist of the charges (though both have their reasons for holding a grudge against the GOP). Meanwhile, former Senator George Voinovich also goes on record telling Grunwald that Republican marching orders were to oppose everything the Obama administration proposed.
“If he was for it, we had to be against it,” Voinovich tells Grunwald. And at another point, characterizing a strategy session Republicans and McConnell had held in early January of 2009, Voinovich said: “He wanted everyone to hold the fort. All he cared about was making sure Obama could never have a clean victory.”
A Republican aide sheds some more light on McConnell’s strategizing just after the 2008 election. Page 148:
“People were pretty demoralized, and there were two totally opposite thoughts on how to approach the situation,” a McConnell aide recalls. “One was, `we don't like the president, we ought to pop him early.’ The other was, `he’s really popular, we should work with him, because that’s what people want us to do.’ The boss’s take was: Neither." McConnell realized that it would be much easier to fight Obama if Republicans first made a public show of wanting to work with him.
We may never know the full story of what happened here, but this suggests some good lines of inquiry. It seems pretty newsworthy for the Vice President of the United States to charge that seven members of the opposition confided to him that their party had adopted a comprehensive strategy to oppose literally everything the new President did — with the explicit purpose of denying him any successes of any kind for their own political purposes — even before he took office.