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June 13th, 2012
08:55 PM ET

Letters to the President #1241: 'Betting on a bad economy'

Reporter's Note: President Obama receives a letter from me each day. I’m not holding back.

Dear Mr. President,

So your pal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is calling GOP tactics in Congress a “wall of blind obstruction.” (I mean, of course, when he’s not calling for an investigation into the Bradley-Pacquiao fight.) He is hardly the first. But the suggestion goes beyond that. Some on the Democratic side are now convinced that some Republicans are purposely trying to derail anything that might make the economy get better, because an economy that stays bad gives them a better chance of bumping you from the Oval Office.

This sounds familiar. I think I recall the same accusations during the midterm election, and something like it in 2008, when some GOP’ers accused Dems of a similar tactic aimed at making the Bush years look so bad that the Democratic candidate had to win the presidency. I hear speculation about these Machiavellian plots every few years, and I’m always somewhat less than convinced. Not because I think it is beneath Republicans to pull such a trick (or Democrats for that matter) but because I just don’t think either side could actually pull it off.

Such triangulation relies not only careful coordination (which neither party seems particularly capable of) but also a series of causes and effects; like an elaborate combination shot on a pool table. The dastardly pols in question would have to a) Successfully block every program that might help the economy, b) Not be called out by the public for doing so, c) Simultaneously make sure blame continued to rain down on the opposite party, and d) Time it all out so that voters somehow reward them for this bit of nefariousness in November. (Hey! That sounds like a political, thriller “Nefarious in November”)

All of that makes me skeptical that that is the plan here. Are the Repubs being obstructionist? Sure. The evidence is clear. But is that because, as some of your Democratic buddies suggest, because they are just bad people? That’s where it gets awfully murky. Maybe, as the Repubs say, they just don’t like your ideas about how to run government, how to handle taxes, immigration, the deficit, and everything else. Maybe they are Republicans precisely because they disagree with your approach and feel they are doing their duty to impede every program of yours every step of the way. That makes them opponents to be sure, and a massive headache for your side, but not bad people.

Who knows where the truth lies? All I know is that both sides periodically see deep, dark, evil plots among their foes…and never more than when that foe has figured out how to stymie the home team’s efforts….fairly or not.

Regards,
Tom

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