You’ve probably heard Republicans and their media fronts blaming President Obama for the current state of total dysfunction that is the current Republican Party.
In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, POTUS smacked down the idea that he’s responsible for Republicans’ choice to obstruct and defy him at every turn, even when it was an idea they supported before Obama suggested it.
The President also put an end to the “both sides do it” “both sides are equally at fault” claims so prevalent in our media.
Transcript via NPR, my emphasis and commentary in italics:
Steve Inskeep: People can even see you on Fox News. If you’ve been president for almost 7 1/2 years and people have still no faith in government, are you accountable for that?
President Obama: Well, look, as a general proposition, I don’t spend a lot of time looking at polls. But what’s interesting is right now …
Inskeep (teasing POTUS because Obama is polling well right now):There’s a poll you like to look at.
The President (calling out Republicans who are blaming him for their party’s dysfunction): Well, right now I think the majority of the American people think that I am doing a good job. That does not necessarily give me a lot of comfort if I can’t move this Congress forward. And the question then becomes — and I have heard some people in the Republican Party suggest that in some fashion I am responsible for what’s happened to them, and the rise of [Donald] Trump and the dysfunction that you see in their party generally.
President Obama breaks it down, and now that he’s in the last months of his last term in office, he is freer to shed a bit of the diplomacy that has marked much of his interactions with Republicans:
The President: What I would say is that I came into office wanting to work on a bipartisan basis, and if you’ve looked at my old speeches you would see that. [The Republicans] made a determination that it was good politics to oppose everything that I did. The problem was that by opposing everything I did, even things that previously they had been for, it pushed their party further and further to the right.
Obama calls out the falsehood of “both sides do it” “both sides are at fault”:
The President: And, look, at the risk of sounding partisan, but I believe if you look at the facts that this is a pretty accurate description: When we talk about dysfunction in government, it’s not as if both parties are equally dysfunctional. The Democrats have a pretty well thought through agenda. When we were governing in the first two years of my administration, we got a lot done. We were probably as productive as any Congress in 20, 30, 40 years.
It is not partisan to be accurate. It’s a shame that the Beltway is so hung up on the idea that spreading the blame equally suggests objectivity and fairness. Sometimes there are sides. This won’t be fixed until the media stops enabling Republicans to fool themselves.
POTUS pointed out that the problem the Republican Party is facing is not unique to them; Democrats have also had this problem. But right now it’s only accurate to say this about the Republican Party:
The President: You have a particular problem in the Republican Party right now that needs to get sorted through. Now, that’s not unique in the annals of American history. There have been times when the Democrats were wrapped around the axle, and extreme wings were setting the agenda. And I think the Republicans will get out of this. I don’t think that it is something that will last the next 10, 15, 20 years.
But right now, at least, partly in reaction to my presidency and the political decisions that they made, they find themselves having created an atmosphere in which even somebody like Paul Ryan is viewed as not sufficiently conservative, or if he does just some of the basic work of governance that somehow he has betrayed the base and is decried as a Republican in name only.
And when you have that kind of environment, it’s very hard to get the kind of cooperation that is necessary for us to solve problems that people are concerned about and that I am assuming that during the course of your conversations they’ve raised repeatedly.
It’s important to be accurate and to call things what they are. This is why I write “the current/modern day Republican Party” when discussing the epic disaster they have built for themselves. They have not always been a disaster, and as Obama points out, the Democrats have been there as well when they lost their own direction.
I say the current Republican Party is a disaster not for partisan reasons or disagreements on policy or ideology (although I do disagree with much of their current platform); they are a political disaster because they are too deep into their denial of reality. And just like an addict, they won’t get better until they stop blaming other people, stop being reactionaries, start doing the hard work of admitting their past mistakes and accept that they can’t stop progress. Republicans need to change what they have control over, and that’s some of their approach to policy and old get out the vote tactics.
Republicans built this disaster. It is not Obama’s fault that they chose to obstruct him at any cost. It is not Obama’s fault that the Republican base demanded that elected Republicans delegitimize this president to the extent that they cut off their own noses and refused to legislate at all.
Republicans blaming Obama for the results of their own hatred is a lot like blaming the victim. It’s childish, peevish, and petulant and that is why Donald Trump is their chosen leader. The media should be sure not to perpetuate the idea that the black person is to blame for the white person’s fear or hatred.
The Republican reaction to Obama is not Obama’s fault.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.