Shining a light on McConnell’s short-term thinking

SHINING A LIGHT ON MCCONNELL’S SHORT-TERM THINKING…. It was a bit of a delayed reaction, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) remarks to National Journal about his plans for next year are becoming increasingly interesting in Democratic circles.

If you’re just joining us, McConnell noted the strategy he has in mind for 2011 and 2012. “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” McConnell said, adding, “Our single biggest political goal is to give [the Republican] nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spoke about this at some length during a briefing yesterday, and the Democratic National Committee released this video today.

Just to clarify, it’s worth emphasizing that the clip isn’t going to be aired on television — it’s 47 seconds, not 30 — though the DNC no doubt hopes it makes the rounds online.

Greg Sargent has a worthwhile take on this, questioning whether the issue really moves the needle, and noting that McConnell and his party just don’t seem to care about how such sentiments are perceived: “[I]f anything, what’s really interesting here is that McConnell sees no need whatsoever to even disguise his real aims, and never really has.”

That’s clearly true. But I think it’s worthwhile for Democrats to incorporate this into the party’s message anyway, for a few reasons. The first is that it might have a marginal effect on the Democratic base, which has frequently been infuriated by Republican obstructionism, and which may not like to hear McConnell boast that his agenda involves destroying the president next year.

The second has to do with so-called, self-identified “independents,” who claim to like the idea of Dems and Republicans cooperating and working together. With McConnell and other Republicans already declaring — in public and on the record — they have no intention of doing anything of the sort, it might matter to some of these voters that a vote for the GOP is a vote for intensified partisan strife.

Ultimately, though, the key angle here is laying the groundwork for future debates. The next Congress, if the midterms go as expected, will be very ugly, and Americans are likely to ask why policymakers can’t get anything done. The race will be on for each side to blame the other.

Since Republicans really will be responsible — they’re the ones already bragging about their unwillingness to compromise — it makes sense for Dems to hammer the point now.