On the night of Barack Obama’s inauguration nearly four years ago, more than a dozen Republican lawmakers met privately to map a strategy on how they would deal with the new president. The consensus was that they would stonewall him at every turn.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy was quoted as saying: ”We’ve gotta challenge them [Obama and the Democrats] on every single bill.”
GOP politicians were encouraged to mount “unyielding opposition” to every proposal emanating from the White House.
Jamelle Bouie of The American Prospect characterized the strategy thusly:
In other words, there was nothing President Obama could have done to build common ground with Republicans. From the beginning, the plan was to relentlessly obstruct Obama, regardless of whether that was good for the country The GOP’s high-minded rhetoric of compromise and bipartisanship was bunk; cover for a plan to keep Democrats from accomplishing anything.
Regarding those early days of the Obama presidency, Steve Benen wrote THIS eight months ago:
Looking back at Barack Obama’s message from four years ago, one of the more common messages he pushed was a deeply-held desire to govern in a bipartisan way. As a candidate, he spoke extensively about reaching across the aisle, working in good faith, and bringing people with different ideologies together in a spirit of shared values and common purpose.
We now know those efforts fell far short, and I suspect there will be some voters who are disappointed, hoping that Obama would have had more success in at least narrowing the partisan divide. But that’s all the more reason to understand why bipartisanship in the Obama era has proven to be impossible.
Obama made several moves early on that suggested he was sincere. The president put Republicans in high-ranking administration positions; he expressed a willingness to compromise; and he pursued an agenda that was moderate and mainstream, embracing ideas on health care, energy, and immigration that have traditionally enjoyed bipartisan backing.
It all came to naught, of course, because Republicans refused to cooperate. Any thought of compromise put GOP incumbents at risk of primary-election challenges from Tea Party types. You were either anti-Obama to the core, or you were labeled a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
But now, with Obama having won re-election and enjoying widespread public support for his stance on fiscal-cliff negotiations, Republicans are howling that he’s the one blocking the path toward cooperation and compromise.
And again, Steve Benen TELLS THE TRUTH of the matter:
For four years, congressional Republicans have refused to work with the Obama White House on anything. GOP leaders have freely admitted that made a deliberate decision never to compromise or work constructively with the president, even when he proposed Republican ideas.
On practically every issue, Obama reached out to GOP officials, pleading with them to work with him in good faith, and in literally every instance, they refused, instead embracing a scorched-earth strategy in which defeating the president was their sole priority. This began literally the same day Obama was inaugurated.
The result has been unprecedented obstructionism and the most toxic political atmosphere since [then-House Speaker Newt] Gingrich led an impeachment crusade against President Clinton.
And yet, despite these past four years, according to Gingrich, there will be a “permanent war” between the parties unless Obama does even more to make Republicans happy. Why? Because GOP policymakers are “sick of” how mean the president is to them.
It’s like peeking into an alternate universe.