October 07, 2011 11:09 am ET - by Matt Finkelstein
As President Obama continues to make the case for the American Jobs Act, congressional Republicans are in the undesirable position of opposing a bill that is supported by a majority of Americans. Making matters more difficult, Senate Democrats have proposed paying for the bill by increasing taxes on millionaires only, which an overwhelming majority of Americans support.
For Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the solution to this political inconvenience is to gloss over the policy debate and accuse the president of refusing to work with Republicans. On Fox News last night, McConnell claimed that Obama has "pretty much clung to the political left," describing his advocacy of the American Jobs Act as a "hard-left position."
"I would have, had I been in his shoes, moved to the center, done more business with Republicans, and tried to make progress on a bipartisan basis," McConnell said.
MCCONNELL: President Obama, at least so far, has pretty much clung to the political left, as if he needed to motivate his own very liberal supporters, who it strikes me are already pretty enthusiastic about him. I would have, had I been in his shoes, moved to the center, done more business with Republicans and tried to make progress on a bipartisan basis. Instead, he's advocating bills that have no chance of gaining Republican support. [...]
I'm not his psychoanalyst, but I do think that he is taking a hard-left position and then complaining because he doesn't have bipartisan support. And when he takes a hard-left position, in fact, all it generates is bipartisan opposition. There are both Democrats and Republicans that oppose the way in which he's trying to go about this and understand that this is not a job-creating bill.
It speaks to the GOP's institutional dishonesty that, after almost three years of concessions by the president, party leaders are still accusing him of refusing to compromise. McConnell probably doesn't spend much time listening to the "political left," but he should try talking to progressive supporters of a larger stimulus, or a public option for health insurance, or ending the Bush tax cuts.
Or he could simply listen to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who bragged about getting "98 percent of what I wanted" in the debt ceiling negotiations — after Obama agreed to the unprecedented GOP strategy of demanding major spending cuts in exchange for preventing default and a possible economic disaster.
The president has done plenty of "business with Republicans," even with GOP leaders taking cues from right-wing activists encouraging them not to deal. As for McConnell's claim that the American Jobs Act is "not a job-creating bill," independent economists disagree.
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