Top GOP Priority: Make Obama a One-Term President

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on working with Obama—and then ending his presidency.

Oct. 23, 2010, 4:21 p.m.

NJ You’ve been study­ing the his­tory of pres­id­ents who lost part or all of Con­gress in their first term. Why?

Mc­Con­nell In the last 100 years, three pres­id­ents suffered big de­feats in
Con­gress in their first term and then won reelec­tion: Harry Tru­man, Dwight Eis­en­hower, and the most re­cent ex­ample, Bill Clin­ton. I read a lot of his­tory any­way, but I am try­ing to ap­ply those les­sons to cur­rent situ­ations in hopes of not mak­ing the same mis­takes.

NJ What have you learned?

Mc­Con­nell After 1994, the pub­lic had the im­pres­sion we Re­pub­lic­ans over­prom­ised and un­der­delivered. We suffered from some de­gree of hubris and ac­ted as if the pres­id­ent was ir­rel­ev­ant and we would roll over him. By the sum­mer of 1995, he was already on the way to be­ing reelec­ted,
and we were hanging on for our lives.

NJ What does this mean now?

Mc­Con­nell We need to be hon­est with the pub­lic. This elec­tion is about them, not us. And we need to treat this elec­tion as the first step in re­tak­ing the gov­ern­ment. We need to say to every­one on Elec­tion Day, “Those of you who helped make this a good day, you need to go out and help us fin­ish the job.”

NJ What’s the job?

Mc­Con­nell The single most im­port­ant thing we want to achieve is for Pres­id­ent Obama to be a one-term pres­id­ent.

NJ Does that mean end­less, or at least fre­quent, con­front­a­tion with the pres­id­ent?

Mc­Con­nell If Pres­id­ent Obama does a Clin­to­nian back­flip, if he’s will­ing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest is­sues, it’s not in­ap­pro­pri­ate for us to do busi­ness with him.

NJ What are the big is­sues?

Mc­Con­nell It is pos­sible the pres­id­ent’s ad­visers will tell him he has to do something to get right with the pub­lic on his levels of spend­ing and [on] lower­ing the na­tion­al debt. If he were to heed that ad­vice, he would, I im­age, find more sup­port among our con­fer­ence than he would among some in the Sen­ate in his own party. I don’t want the pres­id­ent to fail; I want him to change. So, we’ll see. The next move is go­ing to be up to him.

NJ What will you seek from the pres­id­ent on the tax is­sue?

Mc­Con­nell At the very least, I be­lieve we should ex­tend all of the Bush tax cuts. And I prefer to de­scribe this as keep­ing cur­rent tax policy. It’s been on the books for 10 years. Now, how long that [ex­ten­sion] is, is something we can dis­cuss. It was clear his po­s­i­tion was not [favored] among all Sen­ate Demo­crats. They had their own di­vi­sions. I don’t think those di­vi­sions are go­ing to be any less in Novem­ber and Decem­ber.

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