President Obama picks a worthy enemy

Mitch McConnell committed the GOP to blocking his agenda before Inauguration Day. Finally he's fighting back VIDEO

Topics: Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Barack Obama, ,

President Obama picks a worthy enemy Mitch McConnell (Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

If Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t want to be portrayed as a “villain,” he should stop acting like one. On Sunday, McConnell complained about President Obama’s efforts to make Republicans the bad guys for blocking his jobs bill. Now Obama’s taking the fight directly to McConnell, and it’s about time.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, McConnell objected to the idea that the federal government should provide the funds to keep cops, firefighters and teachers on the job.

“They are local and state employees,” McConnell said. “The question is whether the federal government can afford to be bailing out states. I think the answer is no.” He went on to whine, “Their story line is that there must be some villain out there who’s keeping this administration from succeeding.”

On his West Coast tour Obama is hitting McConnell directly, and he’s picked a great target. In Las Vegas yesterday, and again in San Francisco, he mocked McConnell for calling the effort to keep first responders on the job “a bailout,” as though they were irresponsible Wall Street banking firms that got taxpayer support. “These aren’t bad actors who somehow screwed up the economy. They didn’t act irresponsibly. These are the men and women who teach our children, who patrol our streets, who run into burning buildings and save people. They deserve our support.”

McConnell makes a perfect villain because, in fact, his obstruction didn’t start last week. He’s been forcing his caucus to stick together to thwart the president since before he was sworn in. As GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham told the New York Times in March 2010, McConnell summoned his dispirited Republican caucus to the Library of Congress two weeks before Inauguration Day, when the president’s approval rating stood above 70 percent.

“We came in shell-shocked,” Graham recalled. “There was sort of a feeling of ‘every man for himself.’ Mitch early on in this session came up with a game plan to make us relevant with 40 people. He said if we didn’t stick together on big things, we wouldn’t be relevant.” On healthcare reform, McConnell himself told the New York Times: “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 either bipartisan or it isn’t.”

In an Atlantic profile of McConnell, Josh Green observed: “Obama could not evolve into a post-partisan leader, because McConnell wouldn’t let him. He pegged Obama as either too narcissistic or too naive to recognize that his promise of a harmonious new age was beyond his capacity to deliver. Harmony is easily withheld.” Former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, a McConnell ally, compared the minority leader to a saboteur. “McConnell knew the places to go, around the tank, and loosen a lug bolt here, pour sand in a hydraulic receptacle there, and slow the whole thing down,” Bennett told Green.

Despite all of this evidence of McConnell’s bad faith, the president continued to try to make him a partner. It seems as though something snapped after the debt-ceiling debacle, when public opinion polls showed even Republican-leaning independents thought Obama should have fought back harder against Republicans. He’s doing so now, and it’s wonderful to see. McConnell is trying to work the refs with his whining, hoping the media will take his side. And it’s not a crazy fantasy, given too many reporters’ reliance on “false equivalence” templates. But McConnell deserves everything Obama is dishing out, and then some.

Chris Matthews and I discussed Obama vs. McConnell on MSNBC’s “Hardball” Tuesday.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 10
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie

    A contemporary romantic comedy set to Elvis Costello and lots of luxurious and sinful sugary treats.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie

    Another of Crusie's romantic comedies, this one in the shadow of an ostentatiously phallic water tower.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "A Gentleman Undone" by Cecilia Grant

    A Regency romance with beautifully broken people and some seriously steamy sex.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Black Silk" by Judith Ivory

    A beautifully written, exquisitely slow-building Regency; the plot is centered on a box with some very curious images, as Edward Gorey might say.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "For My Lady's Heart" by Laura Kinsale

    A medieval romance, the period piece functions much like a dystopia, with the courageous lady and noble knight struggling to find happiness despite the authoritarian society.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Sweet Disorder" by Rose Lerner

    A Regency that uses the limitations on women of the time to good effect; the main character is poor and needs to sell her vote ... or rather her husband's vote. But to sell it, she needs to get a husband first ...   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Frenemy of the People" by Nora Olsen

    Clarissa is sitting at an awards banquet when she suddenly realizes she likes pictures of Kimye for both Kim and Kanye and she is totally bi. So she texts to all her friends, "I am totally bi!" Drama and romance ensue ... but not quite with who she expects. I got an advanced copy of this YA lesbian romance, and I’d urge folks to reserve a copy; it’s a delight.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "The Slightest Provocation" by Pam Rosenthal

    A separated couple works to reconcile against a background of political intrigue; sort of "His Gal Friday" as a spy novel set in the Regency.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Again" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

    Set among workers on a period soap opera, it manages to be contemporary and historical both at the same time.   Read the whole essay.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>