IF THERE IS ‘SABOTAGE,’ WHAT DOES THE WHITE HOUSE DO?…. It turns out there are quite a few folks who think it’s plausible congressional Republicans may be tempted to keep the economy down on purpose to advance partisan goals. Greg Sargent suggests it’s time to ask the next question: if that’s true, what does the White House do about it?
To be sure, finding examples of observers who find the argument itself is plausible isn’t hard. As I’ve noted, the list includes, to varying degrees, Yglesias, Krugman, Collender, and Serwer, among others. Andrew Sullivan argued the other day that congressional Republicans are “as close to organized vandalism as one can imagine,” and reiterated the point today.
Greg asked in response to all of this:
If this is the case, however, what should Obama do about it? As Sullivan rightly notes, during his first two years Obama was able to accomplish an extraordinary amount despite GOP opposition. But now Republicans are set to take over the House, and the Dems’ margin in the Senate has dwindled dramatically. So what should Obama do now? What new methods should he employ to use the power of the presidency to reckon with the new, emboldened opposition?
That’s obviously fair. Noting that a major political party seems willing to place partisan goals ahead of the public interest is one thing; suggesting constructive courses of action is arguably more important.
So, here are a few thoughts on the next step:
* Govern around Congress: If emboldened congressional Republicans would rather destroy the president than govern, the White House should realize it can do quite a bit without Congress. Eugene Robinson recently noted, “Obama’s focus should be on using all the tools at his disposal to move the country in the direction he believes it must go.” John Podesta and Dan Froomkin have pieces that flesh this strategy out — making use of executive orders, executive regulations, etc. — in more detail.
* Adapt negotiating styles accordingly: If White House officials sit down with the GOP leadership to negotiate, expectations matter. If the president and his team assume Republicans are prepared to work in good faith to find effective solutions to agreed-upon challenges, they may present Democratic proposals with reasonable compromises in mind. If the president and his team assume Republicans are pursuing a scorched-earth campaign, willing to sacrifice the nation’s needs in the hopes of destroying the Obama presidency, the compromise proposals — and the duration of the talks — would hopefully be pretty different.
* Make your case explicitly: It’s one thing for a party to complain about the “Party of No”; it’s another level of magnitude to suggest Republicans are willing to sabotage the country’s interests to improve their odds in 2012. Any White House has to be cautious about attacking rivals’ motives — though the Bush White House effectively accused Dems of treason, and faced almost no pushback — but voters need to at least be aware of the concerns. If Democrats believe Republicans may be sabotaging the president and endangering the nation, they’re going to have to say so in order to initiate some kind of public conversation.
* Be prepared to run against a “Do-Nothing Congress”: It worked for Truman.
I’m sure there are other ideas. What am I missing?