Saturday, October 20, 2012

Andrew Sullivan lambasts the cynicism & hypocrisy of Republican complaints about Obama's lack of "bipartisanship"

Republican attacks on Obama for his alleged lack of "bipartisanship" are so blatantly dishonest, hypocritical, and absurd that it might seem almost redundant to point this out once again. But if someone repeatedly claims that the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, and this claim is even treated seriously in some circles, then it's worth repeating that it gets reality backward.

On this planet, the reality is that from the moment Obama took office, the Congressional Republicans in both houses have pursued a deliberate strategy of uncompromising partisan intransigence manifested in a campaign of unrelenting, promiscuous, and almost monolithic obstructionism—which has included an absolutely unprecedented volume of filibusters and other tactics of procedural sabotage, delay, and dysfunction.  (I mentioned a few more details a week ago here.)  After the Republicans recaptured the House in the 2010 mid-term elections their levels of intransigence and partisan confrontation escalated even further.  In 2011, for example, they threw off all pretense of moderation or restraint by triggering an entirely gratuitous and artificial crisis over lifting the debt ceiling, using this manufactured crisis as a lever for crude political extortion.  That spectacularly irresponsible game of chicken brought the federal government to the verge of its first default in US history, provoked a first-ever credit downgrade for US debt, and left the country facing the prospect of going over a "fiscal cliff" right after the November elections.  Of course, this manufactured crisis also undermined the economy's recovery from the recession, but from the Republicans' perspective this side-effect was a partisan bonus, not a drawback.

(At the same time, of course, Republicans continued to complain that the slowness of the economic recovery was due to businessmen's "uncertainty" about federal policies. That's a bogus analysis anyway, but when Republicans themselves are deliberately increasing the level of "uncertainty" for partisan purposes, the hypocrisy involved goes even beyond the usual standards.)

The fact that this was a deliberately chosen strategy of partisan polarization and rule-or-ruin intransigence (worked out before Obama even took office) should not be news to anyone, since key Republican figures made that quite clear for anyone who was paying attention.  Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, for example, explained in several interviews during 2009 that it was critical for Republicans to avoid even the appearance of bipartisan collaboration on “things like the budget, national security and then ultimately, obviously, health care.”
"It was absolutely critical that everybody [in the Republican caucus] be together because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out," Mr. McConnell said about the health legislation in an interview, suggesting that even minimal Republican support could sway the public. "It’s either bipartisan or it isn’t."
So no one should have been surprised when McConnell declared, in October 2010, that "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

Well, one might respond, what's odd about that?  Isn't that just normal partisan politics?  Yes and no, since the degree of party discipline, deliberate partisan polarization, and inflexible obstructionism on the Republican side are not historically normal, but extreme and exceptional.  However, if Republicans like McConnell genuinely believe that the policies of the Obama administration are disastrous for the country, wouldn't that justify using any means, however extreme, to undermine Obama's agenda, deny him any legislative successes, and get him defeated this November?

Perhaps.  But if Republicans do genuinely believe that a rule-or-ruin politics of all-out polarization, obstructionism, and non-collaboration is justified and even morally obligatory, it is a pretty sick joke to then turn reality on its head and blame Obama and the Democrats for partisan gridlock and the absence of "bipartisan" cooperation in Washington.  One might ask how they think they can get away with constantly repeating this transparent falsehood ... except that, to a depressing extent, they do seem to be getting away with it.

And as long as that's the case, why should they stop?  Quite aside from one's partisan preferences, to the extent that this strategy is successful and incurs no electoral costs, the consequences further poison American politics and are bad for the republic.

Andrew Sullivan made some of the same points yesterday, a bit more compactly, in an effective post marked by an appropriate combination of exasperation, disgust, indignation, and astonishment. See below.

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub

Andrew Sullivan (Daily Dish)
October 18, 2012
Romney's Etch-A-Sketch Complete: He's Now A White Obama

The cynicism of the GOP can sometimes make you laugh or cry. In 2009, a newly elected president was eager to reach out to Republicans, a Democrat who adopted tax cuts as a third of the stimulus, incorporated Republican ideas on the individual mandate and healthcare exchanges, increased domestic oil and gas production, decimated al Qaeda and killed bin Laden etc etc. He got zero House votes for a desperately needed stimulus in his first month as president. And yet that GOP now blames Obama for being obstructionist and portrays Romney as the great healer:

The cynicism turns my stomach. And what turns it even more is that it might just possibly work. He's been ahead nationally for ten days straight, after all.