Sabotage or hardball?

The word sabotage has appeared in the American political debate recently. The accusation, from leading Democratic senators and from liberal commentators, is directed against the Republicans, and raising doubts as to if they, really, are interested in a settlement about the nation’s economy and the debt limit.

This debate has, of course, special relevance today, when President Obama meets separately with the Democratic and Republican Senate leaders in a bid to bring new life in the debt negotiations, whose deadline, August 2, is fast approaching.

The charges of sabotage have their roots in the Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell’s statement that the Republican political goal was to ensure that Obama is not reelected next year.

This is how Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer in put it last week.

Since then, the negotiations under Vice President Joe Biden’s leadership have more or less collapsed after the Republican participants walked out.

Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast sees it this way:

It’s about time the Democrats started saying openly what has been clear for months or even years now—that as long as economic recovery would work to the political benefit of Barack Obama, the Republicans have been, are, and will be in favor of sabotaging the economy.

Today’s GOP is about ideological maximalism on all fronts. Eric Cantor’s withdrawal from the Biden talks shows it again. They cannot negotiate, because negotiating means accepting something you don’t like, which the noise machine will not permit. And worse, because the noise machine wants Obama to fail and is so powerful, Republican office-holders inevitably arrive at that point too.

And Steve Benen, on the Washington Monthly’s blog Political Animal, writes:

Indeed, it’s generally forgotten, but one of the first debates of the Obama era began immediately after the president’s inauguration, when many prominent Republican voices agreed that they “hope Obama fails.” The main difference between then and now is that these same voices are in a position to ensure the president fails by blocking measures that would benefit the country — in many cases, measures Republicans supported until Obama said he agreed with them.

His conclusion:

It is, to be sure, an uncomfortable subject, but maybe it’s time for the political world to have the awkward conversation anyway.

Or is it that Republicans are simply playing “hardball” in order to gain biggest possible advantage in the negotiations. No one knows. So far, they have said no to almost everything, including all proposals for revenue enhancements, which Democrats believe are required. It’s truly been “the party of no.”

Although it is possible that the parties in the end, perhaps not until the evening before the deadline, will agree on a deal — “in the national interest” – that is far from certain. For that you need goodwill and a spirit of compromise, which now seems to be totally lacking among the Republicans. “National interest” – you don’t hear anything about that these days.

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