One of the toughest opponents President Obama has had to face during his presidency is Sen. Mitch McConnell, and the general obstructionism from the GOP. One of the earliest examples of this was when Mitch McConnell declared that this top priority would be to ensure that President Obama was a one-term president.
In an interview with New York Magazine, Obama discussed McConnell’s statement:
By that point it was pretty apparent by his actions that it was already his No. 1 goal. He validated what I think most of this town knew. When I came into office, my working assumption was that because we were in crisis, and the crisis had begun on the Republicans’ watch, that there would be a window in which they would feel obliged to cooperate on a common effort to dig us out of this massive hole.
Obama said he hoped that the Republicans would be willing to work with him on dealing with the economic crisis (obviously caused by George W. Bush), but said the debate over the stimulus bill dashed any hopes of that. Beyond the immediate economic concerns, the President mentioned his fears that their tactics, while politically successful, would have dire long term consequences.
On the drive up to Capitol Hill to meet with the House Republican Caucus, John Boehner released a press statement saying that they were opposed to the stimulus. At that point we didn’t even actually have a stimulus bill drawn up, and we hadn’t meant to talk about it. And I think we realized at that point what proved to be the case in that first year and that second year was a calculation based on what turned out to be pretty smart politics but really bad for the country: If they cooperated with me, then that would validate our efforts. If they were able to maintain uniform opposition to whatever I proposed, that would send a signal to the public of gridlock, dysfunction, and that would help them win seats in the midterms. It was that second strategy that they pursued with great discipline. It established the dynamic for not just my presidency but for a much sharper party-line approach to managing both the House and the Senate that I think is going to have consequences for years to come.
One interesting tidbit was when Chicago was in the running to host the Olympic Games. Obama flew to Copenhagen to help make the bid, and as it turns out, they lost in the first round. This seemed to thrill the republicans.
On the flight back, we already know that we haven’t got it, and when I land it turns out that there was big cheering by Rush Limbaugh and various Republican factions that America had lost the Olympic bid. It was really strange, but at that point, Limbaugh had been much clearer about wanting to see me fail and had, I think, communicated that very clearly to his listeners. Fox News’ coverage had already started to drift in that direction, and what you realized during the course of the first six, eight, ten months of the administration was that the attitudes, the moods that I think Sarah Palin had captured during the election increasingly were representative of the Republican activist base, its core.
So basically, republicans did everything in their power to make sure Obama couldn’t succeed. If only the democrats could do that to Trump.