McConnell takes chutzpah to new levels

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said this week that White House’s “explicit strategy” is to “make people believe that Congress can’t get anything done.” Seriously, that’s what he said. As McConnell sees it, President Obama doesn’t want Congress to function.

Yes, after years of tragic dysfunction and Republican-imposed obstructionism unseen in American history, the conservative GOP leader from Kentucky believes this is all the president’s fault.

“[T]hat’s their explicit strategy — to make people believe that Congress can’t get anything done.

“And how do you make sure of it? By proposing legislation you know the other side won’t support — even when there’s an entire menu of bipartisan proposals the President could choose to pursue instead. The President can govern as though this is the congress he wants or he can deal with the congress he has. Along the first path lies gridlock and along the second lies the kind of legislative progress Americans want. And as for Republicans, well, we’ve been crystal clear from the outset that we prefer the latter route.”

Got that? If Obama embraces proposals uncompromising Republicans like, then he’s being responsible. If he pushes an agenda Republicans reject, then the GOP-driven gridlock is his fault.

I rather doubt McConnell is so far gone that he actually takes this nonsense seriously, but let’s set the record straight anyway, in case anyone is confused enough to believe his ridiculous rhetoric.

For two and a half years, President Obama has, in practically every instance, tried to govern in a mainstream way, with proposals that have traditionally enjoyed at least some support from both parties. Much of his base has been infuriated by this, but the Obama White House has made a concerted effort, first outlined in the 2008 campaign, to govern in a way that could garner support from responsible officials in both parties.

Republicans haven’t cared. Even when the president has embraced GOP ideas, he’s found Republicans are willing to reject their own proposals if Obama agrees with them.

Arguably the one person most responsible for the breakdown of the American political process is Mitch McConnell. Indeed, in several instances, he’s been quite candid about his anti-governing strategy.

The record is unambiguous.

* In March 2010, McConnell explained his decision to try to kill health care reform from the outset, regardless of merit or Democratic compromises, by demanding unanimous Republican opposition: “It was absolutely critical that everybody 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.” It’s a dynamic that made compromise, quite literally, impossible.

* Soon after, McConnell explained the importance he and the House GOP leadership put on “unify[ing] our members in opposition” to everything Democrats propose, because unanimous Republican disagreement would necessarily make Democratic ideas less popular. “Public opinion can change, but it is affected by what elected officials do,” McConnell conceded. “Our reaction to what [Democrats] were doing had a lot to do with how the public felt about it. Republican unity in the House and Senate has been the major contributing factor to shifting American public opinion.”

* In August 2010, McConnell said he’ll only consider negotiating with the White House if they agree to accept center-right proposals, with no exceptions, even if there’s a Democratic majority.

* In October 2010, McConnell conceded on the record that defeating the president in 2012 is his “top priority,” above literally everything else, adding, “Our single biggest political goal is to give our nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful.”

* In June 2011, McConnell said if President Obama asks him to consider an idea Republicans don’t like, it’s evidence of the president acting “in bad faith.”

* In August 2011, McConnell admitted that he and his Republican colleagues were willing to hold the nation and its economy “hostage,” threatening to destroy the United States’ full faith and credit on purpose.

And now McConnell would have Americans believe Obama, unless he agrees to govern the way Republicans want him to, is directly responsible for the perception that “Congress can’t get anything done.” This is even true right now, McConnell says, with an American Jobs Act filled with provisions GOP officials have traditionally supported.

McConnell’s willingness to blame the president for McConnell’s own deliberate strategy is plainly insane. He’s either completely lost touch with reality or he assumes those who take his rhetoric seriously have completely lost touch with reality. Either way, McConnell has taken chutzpah to levels that are hard to believe.