The Romney campaign released a shockingly Orwellian commercial over the weekend, which perpetuates something Romney himself has been saying for months now. Honestly, there's a book-length analysis to be written here, but I'll keep it as brief as possible given the depth and breadth of what the Republicans have been able to accomplish on this front.
The new ad blames President Obama for not reaching out and working with congressional Republicans to get things done. Yes, really. It also ballyhoos Mitt Romney's claim that he was able to work with a Massachusetts legislature that was 85 percent Democratic.
I don't know whether to be brutally outraged about this or to congratulate the Republicans on an outstanding execution of political obstruction and subsequent projection. For now, let's go with brutally outraged.
It's important to review exactly what's led us to this point. From the very beginning, congressional Republican fell into lockstep with Rush Limbaugh and the collective wish for the Obama presidency to fail. Limbaugh set the table several days before the inauguration by telling his audience:
So I’m thinking of replying to the guy, “Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.” (interruption) What are you laughing at? See, here’s the point. Everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, “Oh, you can’t do that.” Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it? I don’t care what the Drive-By story is. I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: “Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.” Somebody’s gotta say it.
The prevailing worry here was that America faced a worsening crisis, with a failing economy and a financial meltdown, and if liberal policies succeeded in resolving the crisis, liberalism would become further entrenched as the best means of stewarding the economy. Subsequently, if the president's center-left policies succeeded, he'd be re-elected and the Republicans would have to wait until 2016 for another stab at the White House.
The only way to prevent this eventuality was to stonewall the president's legislative agenda. All of it. Such an objective is nearly unprecedented. Usually an opposition party is driven to occasionally work with the majority party on the off-chance the majority party's legislation succeeds. This way, the opposition party can claim partial credit for the achievement. Not this time. Instead, the Republicans banked on their mighty bumper-sticker marketeering machine whereby, irrespective of Democratic successes, the Republicans would simply tell voters that those successes were actually failures and that it was President Obama who stubbornly refused to reach across the aisle. Up is down, white is black. Opposite Day politics. With the execution of this "everything has failed" strategy, they were freed up to vote against everything that came down the pike.
And so the Republicans proceeded to rack up the highest number of filibusters in American history. During the president's first two years in office, the 111th Congress, there were 137 cloture motions filed to end Republican filibusters. During the president's second two years, the 112th Congress, there were 109 motions filed to end Republican filibusters and we still have a few more months to go. 246 total cloture motions. Compare this to George W. Bush's first term when there were a total of 133 cloture motions filed. Not even a handful of "sensible" Republicans had the guts to break ranks and vote with the Democrats. Meanwhile, on the House side, the Republican majority has voted in near-lockstep against almost everything.
What bills have the Republicans filibustered? To name a few:
H.R. 12 – Paycheck Fairness Act
H.R. 448 -- Elder Abuse Victims Act
H.R. 466 – Wounded Veteran Job Security Act
H.R. 515 – Radioactive Import Deterrence Act
H.R. 549 -- National Bombing Prevention Act
H.R. 577 – Vision Care for Kids Act
H.R. 626 – Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act
H.R. 1029 – Alien Smuggling and Terrorism Prevention Act
H.R. 1168 -- Veterans Retraining Act
H.R. 1171 – Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program Reauthorization
H.R. 1293 -- Disabled Veterans Home Improvement and Structural Alteration Grant Increase Act
H.R. 1429 -- Stop AIDS in Prison Act
H.R.5281 -- DREAM Act
S.3985 -- Emergency Senior Citizens Relief Act
S.3816 -- Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act
S.3369 -- A bill to provide for additional disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, Super PACs and other entities
S.2237 -- Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act
S.2343 -- Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act
S.1660 -- American Jobs Act of 2011
S.3457 -- Veterans Jobs Corps Act
Here's an astonishing one. The Republicans filibustered the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act -- basically, healthcare for 9/11 heroes. Every Republican senator voted to filibuster this bill. I suppose the Republicans are only interested in 9/11 heroes when they're used as political props.
On the House side, every single Republican, including Paul Ryan, voted against the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act, which forces Congress to pay for new legislation through either budget cuts or revenue increases.
You'd think that by helping to pass these bills, Republicans could boast a solid record on fiscal responsibility, job creation, veterans affairs, anti-terrorism, senior citizens and, hell, 9/11 workers. Instead, they blocked all of it. Jobs for military veterans, tax cuts for small businesses -- you name it. Why? So President Obama and the Democrats could be accused of failure.
And it's working.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously told the National Journal, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Not economic growth, jobs, healthcare or military strength. A failed Obama presidency was the primary -- and I would argue the only goal of the last two Republican congresses.
The Romney campaign is busily playing the endgame on this strategy by projecting Republican obstructionism onto the president and accusing him of refusing to work with Congress, even though the president and the Democrats have dished out heaping piles of legislation that Republicans could reasonably get behind. Not only that, but the president has gone out of his way to incorporate Republican ideas into his major agenda items. The individual mandate is a Republican idea devised and supported by people like Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole and Chuck Grassley. The Affordable Care Act is more or less modeled after Mitt Romney's healthcare law in Massachusetts. Many marquee aspects of the ACA ("Obamacare") were jettisoned in an effort to gain Republican votes, including the public option. Cap-and-trade is a Republican idea. The president even sided with Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts -- a move that angered many liberals, along with the signing of the NDAA.
But if you take Romney's word for it, the president is a lazy, do-nothing chief executive who's been stonewalling the Republicans. Not the other way around. I'm not sure how he doesn't pull a muscle or dislocate a shoulder by twisting himself into a pretzel like this, but it's an amazing feat of through-the-looking-glass deception. The reason Romney was able to get anything done in Massachusetts was because the Democrats in the state legislature weren't anywhere near as obstructionist as today's congressional Republicans. And, if he's elected, the only way Romney will be able to pursue his agenda is if the Democrats are less motivated to obstruct and filibuster than the Republicans.