Raise your hands if you think Republicans are deliberately sabotaging the US economy to prevent the re-election of Barack Obama. Me too. Okay, knowing what you do about the Republican Party, raise your hands if you can think of any reason why Republicans wouldn't throw a monkey wrench into the machinery of our economic engine to accomplish Mitch McConnell's stated goal of making Barack Obama a one-term president. Me neither.
I wouldn't have said this earlier, but I have no doubt now that Republicans are deliberately making the economy worse for political gain. I'm trying to picture a Republican consultant advising his clients against such a move on grounds of, say patriotism and propriety, and I just can't. Probably because they would be out of a job. It's amazing what people can convince themselves it is okay to do once they've convinced themselves they are in the right.
The filibustering of every conventional and sensible proposal the Obama Administration has put forward to help stimulate the economy -- up to and including tax cuts that were Republican ideas to begin with -- was only our first clue that Republicans were rooting for America to fail.
But neither does it take a genius to imagine the phone calls being made by Mitt Romney's henchmen or the candidate himself (properly filtered, of course, to provide maximum deniability) to all of those bankers and business types sitting on their $2 trillion in uninvested cash that, if they want access to a future Romney Administration, they'd better keep sitting on that cash until after the November election. Think of this strategy as just an extension of the Republican Party's K Street Project, the one where America's trade associations and lobbyists were informed by partisan mob enforcers like disgraced Majority Leader Tom DeLay that doing business with the new Republican House was on a strictly pay to play basis.
But what I am also sure about is that Greg Sargent of the Washington Post is certainly correct when he says the establishment media will never let Democrats get away with accusing Republicans of deliberately doing harm the country because the establishment media has far too much to lose from allowing such a suggestion to take root.
As an elite establishment itself, whose place and privileges in American politics comes from its having mastered the rituals of our two-party system, the mainstream media is threatened by anyone who challenges the comfortable status quo of two evenly-balanced, sane and sensible, political parties. The media sees its own interests as neutral observer and referee threatened when people begin opening up that Pandora's Box which exposes one of those major parties to be exactly what congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein said about the GOP, that it: "has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."
It's been more than a month since Mann and Ornstein dropped that bombshell in the pages of the Washington Post and there is still no discussion of its ominous implications on the Sunday political talk shows, says Sargent. Indeed, for their troubles as pundits too hot to handle, Mann and Ornstein have been effectively blackballed from Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and State of the Union.
Most of the time the media loves to talk about itself, says Sargent, so you'd think Mann and Ornstein's allegation that "the press's addiction to fake even-handedness has led them not to acknowledge, or at least grapple with, a fact that is absolutely central to understanding what's happening with our politics right now," would have Sunday show producers burning up the phone lines trying to book the duo on their shows.
"But what continues to strike me is the radio silence on these shows about both these themes," Ornstein told Sargent. "The Republicans bear a lot of the onus for rank obstructionism. But there's a false equivalence here, and the press corps has been AWOL in its duty to report the truth."
Ornstein said that judging by the communication he's had with elite reporters, his description of the GOP as a radical party "has generated lots of discussion in the newsrooms. But the shows are making a conscious decision to ignore it."
So, despite all you hear about the so-called "liberal bias" against Republicans, you can see why the mainstream media is predisposed to shoot down the idea that Republicans might be secretly planting Comp-4 explosive around our economy's foundation in order to detonate it while Barack Obama and the Democrats are the ones likely to suffer the collateral damage.
Which is why it's good to see Democrats making the charge anyway.
As Sargent reports, Harry Reid called out Republicans on the Senate floor the other day for their opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act, saying that from the GOP perspective the act to help ensure women get equal pay for equal work already has two strikes against it because "it would be good for women and good for the economy."
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said on Face the Nation this weekend in regard to the disappointing May jobs reports and Republican efforts to obstruct Obama's job creation policies that: "Instead of high-fiving each other on days when there is bad news, they should stop sitting on their hands and work on some of these answers."
And on Friday after the bad jobs numbers were released, Democratic National Committee executive director Patrick Gaspard went on MSNBC to accuse Republicans of "cheerleading for failure," notes Sargent
"There was a time when charges like these were approached with a bit more caution by Democratic leaders," says Sargent. "Now top Obama and Dem officials are going out into every conceivable forum and repeating the claim that Republicans are actively rooting for widespread economic misery and are doing all they can to block solutions designed to alleviate it."
Paul Krugman says Obama has no choice but to make Republicans the issue and to note we'd all be better off were it not for deliberate GOP sabotage. Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly is not so sure. He thinks swing voters will always hold the President and his party accountable for the state of the economy no matter how much the other guys are gumming up the works.
And even those of us who think Democrats need to call out Republicans for their obstruction have to admit that, despite everything Republicans have done to make the jobs situation worse, the Republican counterattack against charges they are sabotaging the economy practically writes itself: "Stop whining, Mr. President, and lead."
Nevertheless, while there are many things I thought the GOP capable of doing, deliberately standing in the way of America's economic recovery with all of the hardship and misery it would entail for millions of their fellow citizens, wasn't one of them. That was actually one of the few outrages I was not willing to impute to these radical Republicans in their heedless pursuit of power.
But even that low ceiling above my scorn and contempt for the modern GOP was shattered by last summer's debt-ceiling debacle when Republicans showed just how far they were willing to go to achieve their narrow ideological ends.
The subsequent credit rating downgrade that, for good measure, Republicans even blamed on Democrats for not parleying in good faith, was an abject lesson in how quickly and easily even responsible Republican opinion can be herded into line by today's conservative movement. Within a matter of a few short weeks, the initial indignation among sensible conservatives at the suggestion by House Republicans that the full faith and credit of the United States should be put on the table as a bargaining chip to bully Democrats into caving on spending, was converted into accepted conventional wisdom on the right.
Compared to the game of debt-ceiling chicken that threatened what the White House called "economic Armageddon," what's not to believe about Republicans intentionally keeping the economy in the doldrums for another six months if the reward at the end is absolute political power?