The Washington Post

Mitch McConnell’s cheerful cynicism

Mitch McConnell, speaking about the Obama administration, in an interview yesterday on CNN:

“They’re ashamed to mention any of the things that they do with Republicans, because it steps on their storyline. Their storyline is that there must be some villain out there who’s keeping this administration from succeeding.”

Hmm. Where did Obama and his advisers get the whacked out paranoid idea that anyone is trying to prevent Obama from succeeding? Let’s see ... thinking hard here ... hmmmmm ... maybe it was ... from Mitch McConnell himself:

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Yes, that Mitch McConnell:

“We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals,” McConnell says. “Because we thought — correctly, I think — that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.”

Now, in fairness to McConnell, it’s possible that his primary motivation in prioritizing the defeat of Obama over everything else — and in denying Obama bipartisan support for his policies — is that he believes defeating Obama’s policies now and ousting him in 2012 are the only ways to prevent the country from sliding into irreversible decline. But there’s simply no longer any doubt that — whether for principled, ideological, or cynical reasons — Senate Republicans are denying Obama support for his policies to damage him politically.

As Jonathan Cohn put it: “if you’re going to make the president’s failure your top goal — and if you’re going to brag about it — you really can’t get upset when the president blames you for it.”

But this is actually revealing in another way. What McConnell seems to be demonstrating here is that he assumes Americans will dismiss the very idea that Republicans could want Obama to fail as preposterous. And he very well may be right: As I’ve been arguing here regularly, Republicans very well may benefit politically in the long run from blocking Obama jobs policies — even though they have broad public support — because voters who are not tuned in to the finer points of Senate procedure may not know or care why his policies aren’t getting through. They may simply see Obama’s inability to get anything past GOP opposition as a sign of weakness and a failure to change Washington. They may not be able to bring themselves to believe that Republicans are blocking his jobs policies in order to sow public cynicism about partisanship-as-usual and make Obama look ineffective in order to deny him a second term, even though McConnell has basically admitted as much on the record. As McConnell suggested on CNN yesterday, who could possibly believe something so outlandish?

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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