As the world now knows, on January 20, 2009, the night Senator Barack Obama officially became President Barack Obama, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and a dozen GOP Congressman — bolstered by Newt Gingrich and Fox News pollster Frank Luntz — got together for several hours in The Caucus Room, a high-end D.C. restaurant, and planned the demise of the nascent Obama presidency.
“The event — which provides a telling revelation for how quickly the post-election climate soured — serves as the prologue of Robert Draper’s much-discussed and heavily-reported new book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives,” Sam Stein at The Huffington Post reported, in an extensive and fascinatingly frightening examination of GOP practices, earlier this year:
According to Draper, the guest list that night (which was just over 15 people in total) included Republican Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Pete Hoekstra (Mich.) and Dan Lungren (Calif.), along with Republican Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.). The non-lawmakers present included Newt Gingrich, several years removed from his presidential campaign, and Frank Luntz, the long-time Republican wordsmith. Notably absent were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who, Draper writes, had an acrimonious relationship with Luntz.
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.
So, we’ve got 12 Republican Congressmen, plus Newt Gingrich and Frank Luntz, and one unnamed participant, all in a restaurant plotting not a takeover of the government, but a disloyal opposition coup d’état-like plan in an absolute act of, in my opinion, something approaching, something almost akin to, something that sowed the seeds for something that others might call treason; the willful disregard of their fiduciary responsibility to work for the American people, not for the Republican Party.
This wasn’t party politics, it was a brazen act of using their elected offices and taxpayer-supported budgets, with the American people as collateral damage, to extinguish a presidency.
“In other words, there was nothing President Obama could have done to build common ground with Republicans,” The American Prospect reported:
“From the beginning, the plan was to relentlessly obstruct Obama, regardless of whether that was good for the country The GOP’s high-minded rhetoric of compromise and bipartisanship was bunk; cover for a plan to keep Democrats from accomplishing anything. It’s truly remarkable, and in an ideal world, would color any attempts from the GOP to portray itself as the victim of Democratic partisanship.”
Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post offered this extensive take:
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.
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.
“These Republican members of Congress were not simply airing their complaints regarding the other party’s political platform for four long hours,” Daily Kos wrote. “No, these Republican Congressional Policymakers, who were elected to do ‘the People’s work’ were literally plotting to sabotage, undermine and destroy the U.S. Economy. “
“And Republicans Engaged In Historic Levels Of Obstruction To Block Obama’s Initiatives,” Media Matters reports, adding, “Republicans Held Secret Meeting On How To Block Obama’s Agenda On The Very Day He Was Nominated.”
And Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly adds:
When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. What is somewhat new, however, is a political atmosphere in which partisanship can be depicted as identical to civic virtue: that “saving” the country from its president is viewed by the rank-and-file of a major political party, and by its servants and masters in the chattering classes and activist circles, as a necessary and sufficient agenda. That, along with the ability to convince the news media that this attitude of 100% opposition was actually a frustrated effort to cooperate, was key to the GOP’s ability to maintain a united front against anything Obama proposed, even if it was the GOP’s talking points from the day before yesterday.
What’s more interesting to me than the evidence of a cabal to plot against the president (what does anyone suppose Republicans would be doing on the night of their opponent’s apotheosis, raising toasts to his success?) is how effectively dissenting voices were obscured or rubbed out. I mean, when, exactly, did Republicans as a group repudiate the Keynesian economics that had been the bipartisan background for how Washington dealt with rececssions going back to the 70s, reinforced by the supply-siders’ hatred for “root canal” austerity policies? How did they so quickly convince hundreds of people leaving jobs in the Bush administration to agree that their former boss and one-time maximum leader of the conservative forces was in fact an unprincipled Big Spender who had sold out The Cause? And at what point, exactly, did the Move Right To Win strategy that had always existed on the fringes of conservative political science circles become uniform orthodoxy, to the point that the 2012 GOP nomination contest because strictly a matter of identifying the maximum conservatism the political markets could bear?
Fast forward to 2010.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the National Journal, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” then repeated that idea everywhere he could.
Fast forward to this week.
“I’ve spent the morning reading various endorsements of Mitt Romney for president, and they all say the same thing: Mitch McConnell and John Boehner’s strategy worked,” Ezra Klein wrote in The Washington Post on Tuesday:
In endorsement after endorsement, the basic argument is that President Obama hasn’t been able to persuade House or Senate Republicans to work with him. If Obama is reelected, it’s a safe bet that they’ll continue to refuse to work with him. So vote Romney!
That’s not even a slight exaggeration. Take the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest and most influential paper. They endorsed Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, and Barack Obama in 2008. But this year, they endorsed Romney.
Why? In the end, they said, it came down to a simple test. “Which candidate could forge the compromises in Congress to achieve these goals? When the question is framed in those terms, Mitt Romney emerges the stronger candidate.”
The paper goes on to note that “early in his administration, President Obama reached out to Republicans but was rebuffed.” The problem, they say, is that “since then, he has abandoned the effort, and the partisan divide has hardened.” I’m not sure that’s an accurate read of the situation — Obama spent most of 2011 negotiating with John Boehner — but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that’s how the Register sees it, and it stands in contrast with Romney, who “succeeded as governor in Massachusetts where he faced Democratic majorities in the legislature.”
Of course, while Klein won’t say this, the Romney “succeeded as governor in Massachusetts where he faced Democratic majorities in the legislature,” idea is pure bullshit, as the New York Times last month reported:
“[Romney] vetoed scores of legislative initiatives and excised budget line items a remarkable 844 times, according to the nonpartisan research group Factcheck.org. Lawmakers reciprocated by quickly overriding the vast bulk of them.”
Fast forward to yesterday.
“In what his campaign billed as his ‘closing argument,’ Mitt Romney warned Americans that a second term for President Obama would have apocalyptic consequences for the economy in part because his own party would force a debt ceiling disaster,” Talking Points Memo’s Benjy Sarlin reported:
Romney said that Obama “promised to be a post-partisan president, but he became the most partisan” and that his bitter relations with the House GOP could threaten the economy. As his chief example, he pointed to a crisis created entirely by his own party’s choice — Republican lawmakers’ ongoing threat to reject a debt ceiling increase. Economists warn that a failure to pass such a measure would have immediate and catastrophic consequences for the recovery.
“You know that if the President is re-elected, he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress,” Romney said. “He has ignored them, attacked them, blamed them. The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy.”
So, bottom line, this is the treason-ish compact forged by the GOP: Under cover of darkness, expensive single malt scotch, cigars, and center cut filet mignon, forge a plan to overthrow — if not the President’s first term, certainly – his chances for a second by defaulting (call it, “placing on hold,”) on your sworn oath to the American people that you will preserve and protect the Constitution — rationalizing that since, in your twelfth-century, science is bad, Obama isn’t a Christian, all’s fair in a religious war mentality — by making President Obama a “one term president” at any and all costs, including at the cost of helping millions of unemployed Americans become employed, downgrading the U.S.A.’s credit rating, and ruining the environment around the world.
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