McConnell’s speech at the Heritage Foundation yesterday has gotten a lot of attention. The New York Times’ reading is Broderist: alas, McConnell didn’t promise bipartisan cooperation and said the key to his agenda is defeating Obama. (I’m shocked.) Talking Points Memo’s “Shellacked and the Furious” video suggests the same thing in more partisan form: here Obama is sounding all conciliatory* while McConnell is declaring political warfare.
But there’s a totally different way to look at McConnell’s admission that his agenda requires defeating Obama: with Obama in the White House, the Republican agenda will fail and McConnell knows it. And in a speech to his strongest supporters, he’s trying, a bit desperately, to avoid blame when it does fail.
“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 it is to put someone in the White House who won’t veto any of these things”
Translation: Obama will veto attempts to overturn his policy victories (even if they pass the Senate) and his vetoes will be sustained.
“By their own admission, leaders of the Republican Revolution of 1994 think their greatest mistake was overlooking the power of the veto. They gave the impression they were somehow in charge when they weren’t. And after President Clinton vetoed their bills, making it impossible for them to accomplish all their goals, they ended up being viewed as failures, sellouts, or both. Today, Democrats not only have the White House. They have the Senate too. So we have to be realistic about what we can and cannot achieve, while at the same recognizing that realism should never be confused with capitulation.
Translation: Due to the veto power, Republicans didn’t accomplish what they wanted to in 1994—while suffering with their base in saying they could—and they are in a much weaker position now.
“On health care, that means we can — and should — propose and vote on straight repeal, repeatedly. But we can’t expect the president to sign it. So we’ll also have to work, in the House, on denying funds for implementation, and, in the Senate, on votes against its most egregious provisions. At the same time, we’ll need to continue educating the public about the ill-effects of this bill on individuals young and old, families, and small businesses.
“And this is why oversight will play a crucial role in Republican efforts going forward.
Translation: defunding won’t work either since it would require shutting down the government—which is why all I can promise is to hold some biased hearings.
People: the modern Presidency has enormous powers. We will preserve the great gains of the last two years as long as Obama is in the White House, and will be in a position to expand them when he wins re-election. Our position can’t be taken by storm—only by surrender.
*I’m not saying that the President has any intention of meeting the Republicans halfway on policy. His press conference on Wednesday made that very clear. But his rhetoric has been conciliatory—and as I’ve said before, while that might frustrate progressives eager for a donnybrook, it’s outstanding politics in a country where everyone is raised on civics-book bipartisanship and a huge majority of voters wish Washington politicians would “stop bickering” and “get things done.”