Media Ignore Bush, GOP's All-Out Obstruction After Losing Majority in 2006 Midterm Rout
In the wake of the GOP's triumph in last week's midterm election, conservative commentators are demanding President Obama and his Democratic allies abandon their agenda and submit to the will of the new Republican majority. "The chastened President," Peggy Noonan lectured, should "reach out, be humble," but instead is "doubling down on hostility, antagonism and distance." GOP supplicant Byron York even offered Obama a role model for dealing with his lame duck, midterm "thumpin'": George W. Bush.
By the time Bush lost Congress, his mandate was gone, and he was reduced to exercising the core constitutional powers of the presidency...Bush's acceptance of defeat was [a] model of reality-based politics.
Alas, to believe this pathetic right-wing revisionism is to be unencumbered by both the truth and recent history. Leave aside for the moment that Obama and his policies are more popular than a free-falling Dubya was six years in. The record shows that President Bush responded to his thumping by turning to a "veto strategy" designed to halt any Democratic bills that hit his desk. And to keep the number of those bills to an absolute minimum, the GOP minority in the Senate launched its record-setting wave of filibusters that only accelerated when Barack Obama entered the Oval Office
Just six months into the new 110th Congress, a July 2007 analysis by McClatchy showed that Republicans had already resorted to the filibuster 42 times and were on track to block Senate action over 150 times that term, shattering the previous record by almost a factor of three. As Robert Borosage detailed, while Democrats in the House have kept their promise to pass a raft of legislation including Medicare drug negotiation, the minimum wage, student loan reform and more, Republicans in the Senate have stymied overwhelmingly popular bills at every turn:
"Bills with majority support -- raising the minimum wage, ethics reform, a date to remove troops from Iraq, revoking oil subsidies and putting the money into renewable energy, fulfilling the 9/11 commission recommendations on homeland security--get blocked because they can't garner 60 votes to overcome a filibuster."
Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) was one of the essential architects of the filibuster fever in the Grand Obstruction Party. While decrying that "the Senate is spiraling into the ground to a degree that I have never seen before" and "all modicum of courtesy is going out the window," Lott was also brutally frank about his strategy to prevent any Democratic wins come hell or high water:
"The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail. So far it's working for us."
But when even Congressional Republicans couldn't resist the demands of the American public, President Bush was waiting with his veto pen. In October 2007, both houses passed an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP). A $35 billion program fully paid for with higher cigarette taxes, the S-CHIP expansion would have extended coverage from 6.6 million to 10 million children nationwide. But Bush, who four years earlier championed the unfunded, $400 billion Medicare Part D prescription drug program for seniors, said no to "socialized medicine" for millions of American kids.
As the late Robert Novak documented, the veto was a feature and not a bug of the last two years of the Bush presidency. Bush, who in eight years increased federal spending by half and nearly doubled the national debt, supposedly had a come to Jesus moment. In the summer of 2007, Novak (who previously had done the Bush administration's dirty work in outing covert CIA operative Valerie Plame) reported in "Bush's Veto Strategy":
Addressing a Republican fundraising dinner at the Washington Convention Center on Wednesday night, President Bush declared: "If the Democrats want to test us, that's why they give the president the veto. I'm looking forward to vetoing excessive spending, and I'm looking forward to having the United States Congress support my veto." That was more than blather for a political pep rally. Bush plans to veto the homeland security appropriations bill nearing final passage, followed by vetoes of eight more money bills sent him by the Democratic-controlled Congress.
But the Democrats didn't really test President Bush or the Republican minorities in the House and Senate. Harry Reid's Democratic Senate didn't give Bush's hyper-partisan Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey a fair hearing; they confirmed him by a 53-40 vote. Despite conservative demands for the "nuclear option" to end judicial filibusters requiring a 60 vote threshold, Bush selections like the extremist Leslie Southwick still ended up on the federal bench. Of course, when Democrat Barack Obama was elected in November 2008, Republicans like Arizona Senator John Kyl professed their new-found love for the judicial filibuster.
But that was then, and this is now. And now, a Democratic President is the one who has lost his Senate majority. For conservatives, Obama's determination to stay the course, especially in regards to his long-standing promise to take executive action on immigration, represents "petulance and denial" and worse. As MSNBC's Steve Benen explained, Republicans and their water carriers are outraged--outraged!--this week that President Obama won't do what President Bush and his allies would never have even considered: meekly submit.
As Alexandrea Boguhn noted, the conservative pundits' reactions were over the top, even by their standards. Fox News' Sean Hannity whined about Obama's "breathtaking arrogance." Erick Erickson, without a hint of irony, called the president a "petulant man child" who gave "the middle finger" to Americans." Drudge said Obama intends to "do whatever he wants anyway" because Republicans "won't arrest him." Another Fox News contributor concluded, simply, "Obama's insane."
No, President Obama isn't insane. Obama's only doing what John Boehner ("When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself") and Mitch McConnell ("waving a red flag in front of a bull") would insist he and his Congressional minority should do if he and Harry Reid were Republicans.