I’ve been hesitant to make too much of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement a few days ago that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” It seemed over the top, like something McConnell said off the cuff, in the heat of battle, and probably regretted.
Surely it was more important to McConnell as a public servant to get millions of Americans working again, or to restore the nation’s financial health, or to stop Iran from getting the bomb. Surely working toward those and other national goals took priority over trying to defeat Obama, especially in difficult times such as these.
Silly, silly me.
“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.”
McConnell isn’t some talk-radio host trying to work his audience into a lather. He’s not a behind-the-scenes political operative or consultant plotting the next election. He’s the Senate minority leader, with an obligation to govern that ought to transcend partisan goals.
For that reason, it means something when a person in his position embraces partisan gain over all else, however he may try to justify it to himself and others. In fact, it’s hard to hear his statement as anything but a declaration of all-out partisan war, damn the consequences.
For example, given the choice of supporting something that was good for the country, but would also benefit Barack Obama politically, what would McConnell do? If you take him at his word — and I guess we have to, since he has chosen to repeat it for emphasis — you at least have to wonder.
I just can’t imagine such a bald assertion of partisan gain over policy at any other time from such a prominent source. Tom Daschle in 2002, saying “the single most important thing we want to achieve is beating George Bush?” Unthinkable, because then as now, the country had bigger things on its plate. Even Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich, at the height of political acrimony with Bill Clinton, didn’t publicly commit themselves to Clinton’s political destruction as their primary goal.
The good news is, at least we know where we stand.