Congress returned to Washington on Tuesday, which gave Republicans their first national whack at President Obama since public anger over the debt limit fight boiled over, and details of his jobs plan started to leak, and he nixed a forthcoming pollution regulation at the behest of Republicans and conservative business interests.
Who better to wield the truncheon than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who perhaps unwittingly affirmed a recent, widely cited critique of the GOP, written by a 30 year Republican Capitol Hill vet.
“[E]very one of us, I’m sure, is aware of the fact that many Americans are not only frustrated with the state of our economy, but also with the state of their government,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “I don’t think any one of us is under any illusion that the American people were particularly eager to see us come back.”McConnell took a preemptive swipe at the jobs plan Obama will spell out before a joint session of Congress on Thursday evening — and specifically at the idea that the government should partner with the private sector to pay people to build or improve U.S. infrastructure.
“I’m…certain that, taken as whole, they’ll represent more of the same failed approach that’s only made things worse over the past few years, and resulted in even fewer jobs than when he started,” McConnell said, dismissing the economic consensus that Obama’s stimulus prevented a deeper recession than the one the country experienced. “Over the weekend, the President tested a few of the lines I expect we’ll hear on Thursday. His central message, evidently, is that anyone who doesn’t rubber stamp his economic agenda is putting politics above country. With all due respect, Mr. President, there’s a much simpler reason for opposing your economic proposals that has nothing to do with politics: they don’t work.”
And if Obama thought scrapping a long-promised new regulation to reduce smog pollution would entice Republicans to give him some leeway on other job proposals, he was wrong.
“[Y]ou don’t lift a single regulation and suddenly claim to be Margaret Thatcher,” McConnell snarked.
Turn now to this article — Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left The Cult — by Mike Lofgren, a respected veteran who served on the Republican staffs of both the House and Senate Budget Committee.
“A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption,” he wrote. “Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.”
A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters’ confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.” This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s – a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn (“Government is the problem,” declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).
If that’s the game plan, then what better time for Republicans to pick the debt limit fight and reject public works projects than when public anger at Congress’ total failure to address the employment crisis is at a fever pitch.
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