Asymmetric partisanship

ASYMMETRIC PARTISANSHIP…. I don’t doubt for a moment that the White House is filled with some savvy, smart folks. But one of my biggest concerns about the next two years is that the president and his team won’t appreciate the extent to which congressional Republicans have no intention of trying to govern, compromise, or work constructively on anything.

At President Obama’s press conference yesterday, he used the word “compromise” three times. The phrase “common ground” came up an additional three times. The president referenced working “together” 11 times. When ABC’s Jake Tapper, in the context of the debate over tax policy, asked, “So you’re willing to negotiate?” the president replied, “Absolutely.”

All of this sounded quite reasonable. But what I can only hope is that Obama and his team realize that Republican leaders have plans for the next Congress, and “reasonable” isn’t on the menu.

There’s been some talk lately about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) conceding that the “single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Let’s not forget, though, he keeps saying it.

An emboldened Sen. Mitch McConnell on Thursday will declare that President Barack Obama must be defeated in 2012 because Republicans “can’t plan” on the White House to listen to voters and cooperate on some of his party’s top political priorities.

“Over the past week, some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office,” the Senate Republican leader plans to tell the conservative Heritage Foundation, according to excerpts of his speech provided to POLITICO.

“But the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill; to end the bailouts; cut spending; and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won’t veto any of these things,” the Kentucky Republican will say. “We can hope the president will start listening to the electorate after Tuesday’s election. But we can’t plan on it.”

As gracious as Obama was yesterday, McConnell will be antagonistic today. His prepared remarks added that he’ll push for the Senate to vote “repeatedly” on repealing the Affordable Care Act

And all of this comes against the backdrop of other leading Republicans, including the upcoming House Speaker, vowing not to compromise, not to mention the GOP officials demanding a government shutdown next year.

After the 1994 midterms, Gingrich, Dole, & Co. at least had a desire to show they could pass pieces of legislation, so they had an incentive to work with the Clinton White House on some big issues, including welfare reform. But McConnell, Boehner, & Co. don’t have any policy goals to speak of, and would be quite content with two years of petty gridlock.

Presidential graciousness is understandable, but it’d be a mistake to bring to bring a knife to the proverbial gunfight.