The Logic Of McConnell's Dickishness

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JONATHAN CHAIT DECEMBER 21, 2010

The Logic Of McConnell's Dickishness

Mitch McConnell is not even trying to appear reasonable:

McConnell is signaling that the White House should be prepared in the new Congress to support Republican policies – not the other way around.

“If the president is willing to do things that we believe in, I don’t think we’re going to say, ‘No, Mr. President we’re not going to do this any longer because you’re now with us,’” McConnell told POLITICO in his ornate office across from the old Senate chamber. “Any time the president is willing to do what we think is in the best interest of the American people, we have something to talk about.”

Coming on the heels of McConnell's previous boast that his top goal was to defeat Obama, it seems obvious that McConnell does not find it necessary to even pretend to be interested in compromise. His strategy of obstructionism is very useful for Republicans, but the sheer brazenness of it isn't -- most Americans think Obama wants to compromise with Republicans, but that Republicans don't want to compromise with him. That (accurate) perception is going to give Obama a stronger hand both in his dealings with the GOP and in his 2012 run.

So, again, why isn't McConnell at least putting up a facade of reasonableness?

Probably because he's already thinking about re-election:

“I’m not planning on running – I am running,” he said definitively. “I’ve never been someone who has started late or who agonized publicly over whether I was going to run. I feel like I’m at the top of my game, at my peak effectiveness and I certainly am going to run again in 2014.”

Remember, McConnell saw his hand-picked candidate in Kentucky defeated by insurgent challenger Rand Paul, in a race that pitted his state's grassroots activists against McConnell. McConnell has to worry about a right-wing challenger. That's why he's not just taking a hard line against Obama, he's broadcasting it.

Of course, this isn't very helpful messaging from the Republican perspective. And it points to a structural problem the party may have. The last two Democratic Senate leaders, Tom Daschle and Harry Reid, came from red states, which complicated their ability to function as partisan leaders. McConnell presents the opposite issue. He comes from a safe Republican state, but his fear of a primary challenge prevents him from making the superficial concessions that a party would like one of its leaders to make. McConnell's uber-partisanship may be a smart strategy, but it would be even smarter if he were able to hide it behind a facade of public-spiritedness.

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posted in: jonathan chait, congress, senate, white house, mitch mcconnell

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