As reported in Robert Draper’s book, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives,” 15 influential Republicans, including Paul Ryan, future House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former Speaker Newt Gingrich gathered at the swank Caucus Room restaurant in Washington to plot a strategy aimed at denying Obama any legislative victories. They agreed to stall or kill nearly every bill the new president sent to Congress.
“You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown,” crowed Gingrich as the group left the four-hour dinner meeting.
At the time the GOP conspirators met, the country was teetering on the edge of an economic abyss. In January 2009, the month their meeting took place, more than 500,000 Americans lost their jobs.
But Republicans didn’t care about helping the new president get Americans back to work. Their stated priority was making him a one termer.
“The Republican argument against the president’s re-election was actually pretty simple,” said Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. “We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough. So fire him and put us back in.”
President Obama has to be faulted for underestimating the depth of their deceit. He naively believed the “loyal opposition” would come together with Democrats to support the president during a devastating economic crisis, the worst since the Great Depression.
Obama was probably thinking about how every American, regardless of party, rallied to President Bush in the days and weeks after 9/11. How wrong he was.
In the first year of his presidency, Obama kept “reaching across the aisle” even as his hand was repeatedly slapped away by GOP congressional leaders.
The president should have called out the obstructionists by name and demanded action. Instead, “No Drama Obama” played golf with House Speaker John Boehner in the vain hope the Speaker would come around.
It’s an article of faith among conservatives today that high unemployment is entirely Obama’s fault, that he can manufacture jobs out of thin air. It’s a myth disingenuously promoted by Mitt Romney, Ryan and Boehner, and amplified by conservative media misinformation mongers.
But as Romney, Ryan and Boehner know full well, creating jobs can only happen through bipartisan cooperation.
Now, like Captain Renault in “Casablanca,” the same GOP leaders are “shocked, shocked!” that unemployment has stayed above 8 percent even as they derailed one Obama jobs bill after the next.
Moody’s Analytics said Obama’s most recent jobs bill would produce 1.9 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office said the measure wouldn’t add a dime to the deficit. Republicans said no.
GOP duplicity has hit Cobb hard. We’ve felt the recession as acutely as anyplace in the country, with unemployment mirroring the nation’s 8.1 percent. Countywide, we’ve seen foreclosures, bankruptcies, home devaluations, and a drop in tax revenues leaving public schools and county services stretched to the breaking point.
In short, Republicans got exactly what they hoped for when they met in 2009. That includes our own representatives, Phil Gingrey and Tom Price, a pair of lightweights who didn’t make the Caucus Room cut but who nevertheless enabled the GOP’s obstructionist agenda at the expense of us, their constituents.
If you’re unemployed or underemployed, if your home is worth less than you owe on it, if your 401K is gone, then your anger is entirely understandable. None of this had to happen. But Republicans decided if they could make it worse, you’d blame Obama.
Dump the disloyal opposition.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.