When President Barack Obama came into office, he admits that he thought because of the state of the nation, Republicans would feel obligated to work with him in an effort to dig the country out of the hole they’d helped dig.
That hole, the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, saw housing prices drop 30 percent and the unemployment rate rise from five percent in December 2007 to 10 percent by December 2010.
But like so much else during the next eight years, Republicans in the Senate and the House cut off those efforts even before they began. In fact, even before the President’s inauguration, Republicans had met on how best to bring him down.
In a wide-ranging interview with New York magazine, Obama talks about the day he realized they had no intention on working with him and four other days that shaped his administration.
“Probably the moment in which I realized that the Republican leadership intended to take a different tack was actually as we were shaping the stimulus bill, and I vividly remember having prepared a basic proposal that had a variety of components,” the President said.
That proposal had tax cuts, an infrastructure component and funding for states so that teachers and firefighters wouldn’t be laid off. It was an ambitious proposal that the president felt was necessary, and with negotiations, would get passed. But before the President could even meet with Republicans, he got word of their opposition.
“On the drive up 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,” the president said.
That was just the beginning of his constant and ever-growing GOP battle. In addition to the stimulus, the other four events that he believes will prove historically significant in his administration include:
- The passage of the Affordable Care Act
- The administration’s handling of the BP oil spill
- Opening relations with Cuba
- The use of drones in the war against terror
Obama said it didn’t take long before it became clear that regardless of the policy he proposed or the action he took, Republicans in Congress would not cooperate with him unless it was entirely on their terms.
“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,” he said.
He added, “There were times that I would meet with Mitch McConnell and he would say to me very bluntly, ‘Look, I’m doing you a favor if I do any deal with you, so it should be entirely on my terms because it hurts me just being seen photographed with you.’
“During the health-care debate, you know, there was a point in time where, after having had multiple negotiations with [Iowa Senator Chuck] Grassley, who was the ranking member, and in exasperation I finally just said to Grassley, ‘Is there any form of health-care reform that you can support?’ and he shrugged and looked a little sheepish and said, ‘Probably not.’ ”