President Obama recently sat down with New York Magazine‘s
One of the earliest examples of this was when Mitch McConnell declared that this top priority would be to ensure that President Obama was a one-term president.
Chait asked for the President’s thoughts on that and he admitted that he wasn’t surprised by the announcement.
‘By that point it was pretty apparent by his actions that it was already his No. 1 goal. He validated what I think most of this town knew. When I came into office, my working assumption was that because we were in crisis, and the crisis had begun on the Republicans’ watch, that there would be a window in which they would feel obliged to cooperate on a common effort to dig us out of this massive hole.’
The President said he was originally hopeful that the Republicans would be willing to work with him on dealing with the economic crisis, but said the debate over the stimulus bill dashed any hopes of that. Beyond the immediate economic concerns, the President mentioned his fears that their tactics, while politically successful, would have dire long term consequences.
‘On the drive up to Capitol Hill to meet with the House Republican Caucus, John Boehner released a press statement saying that they were opposed to the stimulus. At that point we didn’t even actually have a stimulus bill drawn up, and we hadn’t meant to talk about it. And I think we realized at that point what proved to be the case in that first year and that second year was a calculation based on what turned out to be pretty smart politics but really bad for the country: If they cooperated with me, then that would validate our efforts. If they were able to maintain uniform opposition to whatever I proposed, that would send a signal to the public of gridlock, dysfunction, and that would help them win seats in the midterms. It was that second strategy that they pursued with great discipline. It established the dynamic for not just my presidency but for a much sharper party-line approach to managing both the House and the Senate that I think is going to have consequences for years to come.’
President Obama didn’t lay the blame solely on Congressional Republicans. He also discussed the fact that media personalities such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News had made it clear they wanted to see him fail. Due to fear of their voters, Republican leadership embarked on an unrelenting opposition to everything the President proposed.
Limbaugh had been much clearer about wanting to see me fail and had, I think, communicated that very clearly to his listeners. Fox News’ coverage had already started to drift in that direction, and what you realized during the course of the first six, eight, ten months of the administration was that the attitudes, the moods that I think Sarah Palin had captured during the election increasingly were representative of the Republican activist base, its core. It might not have been representative of Republicans across the country, but it meant that John Boehner or Mitch McConnell had to worry about that mood inside their party that felt that, No, we shouldn’t cooperate with Obama, we shouldn’t cooperate with Democrats; that it represents compromise, weakness, and that the broader character of America is at stake, regardless of whatever policy arguments might be made. As a consequence, there were times that I would meet with Mitch McConnell and he would say to me very bluntly, “Look, I’m doing you a favor if I do any deal with you, so it should be entirely on my terms because it hurts me just being seen photographed with you”’
As with those of who have endorsed Donald Trump, Republicans have made it clear that they are willing to put politics before country. President Obama’s administration has been fairly successful, but it could have accomplished a lot more if the Republican Party had been willing to compromise.