McConnell defends his petty partisanship

MCCONNELL DEFENDS HIS PETTY PARTISANSHIP…. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) caused a minor stir last week, insisting in an interview, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president…. Our single biggest political goal is to give [the Republican] nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful.”

The remarks were not well received. Democrats were outraged; President Obama emphasized the quote in his weekly address; and even Joe Scarborough, not exactly a liberal, characterized McConnell’s comments as “embarrassing” and “pathetic.”

Today, McConnell dismissed the criticism as “laughable,” and said he has no regrets for having made the comments.

“I know the president’s goal is to get a second term. It’s not surprising that Republicans would want him to not get reelected,” McConnell said in an interview with POLITICO. […]

McConnell said in a phone interview Monday that the attacks are “kind of laughable” and said Democrats are only focusing on him because “they don’t have much to talk about.”

At first blush, this might seem like a vaguely persuasive defense. McConnell’s a Republican leader; the president is a Democrat. Of course it makes sense that McConnell would like to see the president serve only one term.

But this badly misses the point of the controversy.

For one thing, McConnell didn’t just say he wants the president to lose in 2012; McConnell implicitly argued that he intends to use the levers of power to ensure the president’s political destruction. Indeed, instead of talking about job creation or national security as his top priority, McConnell described Obama’s defeat as “the single most important thing we want to achieve.”

If policymakers are going to have to compromise next year to get anything done, how can Obama expect to work in good faith with GOP lawmakers whose only real goal is to crush him?

For another, the larger context matters. As Paul Krugman noted the other day, “If you read the full interview, what Mr. McConnell was saying was that, in 1995, Republicans erred by focusing too much on their policy agenda and not enough on destroying the president: ‘We suffered from some degree of hubris and acted as if the president was irrelevant and we would roll over him. By the summer of 1995, he was already on the way to being re-elected, and we were hanging on for our lives.’ So this time around, he implied, they’ll stay focused on bringing down Mr. Obama.”

Let’s put it this way: imagine if, in 2002, Tom Daschle announced publicly that no matter what happened in the midterm elections, he and his caucus would use their power to undermine President Bush at all costs, and the desire to limit him to one term would be the caucus’ single greatest priority, above literally everything else facing the country.

Do you suppose Republicans and political reporters would have something to say about it?