As Donald Trump emerges as the likely Republican presidential nominee, some right-wing media figures who oppose him have begun to place some of the blame for his rise on President Obama's supposed partisanship, arguing that Obama's intransigence created the environment for Trump to flourish. This argument ignores the role Republican politicians played in creating a partisan divide by deciding at the beginning of Obama's presidency not to work with him, regardless of what he proposed.
Trump Leads Republican Presidential Candidates
Trump Cements Place As GOP Front-Runner. After winning the majority of states on Super Tuesday, Donald Trump notched victories in the Michigan and Mississippi Republican primaries. Trump leads the Republican presidential candidates in the delegate count. [USA Today, 3/9/16]
Conservative Media Figures Blame Obama's Partisanship For Trump's Rise
National Journal's Kraushaar: Election Of Al Franken “Circuitously Paved The Way For The Rise Of A Much Different Type Of Entertainer -- Donald J. Trump.” In a March 8 column for National Journal, Josh Kraushaar traced Trump's rise back to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. He claimed that had President Obama not been granted a supermajority by Al Franken's 2008 Senate victory, the president would have needed more Republican input to pass his signature health care bill, which would have headed off conservatives' anger and mistrust:
Looking for a culprit to blame for all the polarization, gridlock, and bad feelings in Washington? Point to Sen. Al Franken. No, that's not a joke.
Without a Democratic supermajority, Obama would have been forced to negotiate with Republicans (or, at least, former Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine) and settle for the incremental health care legislation that his then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel recommended. The GOP would still have been opposed to any Democratic health care reforms, but the antipathy would have been muted because a few Republicans would have supported the legislation. Instead of provoking a pitched partisan showdown that culminated with then-House Minority Leader John Boehner exclaiming that the Congress had “shatter[ed] the bonds of trust” with the American people, Obama could have tempered the wrath of the Republican opposition. [National Journal, 3/8/16]
Bobby Jindal In Wall Street Journal: “There Would Be No Donald Trump ... If It Were Not For President Obama.” In March 3 opinion piece titled “President Obama Created Donald Trump,” former Republican presidential candidate and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wrote that President Obama created “one of the most polarizing forces in America today ... Donald Trump,” in part because Obama supposedly refused to work with Republicans on the stimulus and health care reform:
Mr. Obama has alienated allies like Israel while encouraging adversaries like Iran and Cuba. He has fostered Americans' record-breaking dependence on government programs and record-low participation in the workforce. He has expanded the power, size and expense of the federal government in unprecedented ways, all at the expense of Americans' freedom, standard of living and economic well-being.
But the president truly doesn't get enough credit for creating one of the most polarizing forces in American politics today. No, not Hillary--that is more Bill's doing. Let's be honest: There would be no Donald Trump, dominating the political scene today if it were not for President Obama.
Mr. Obama likes to bemoan the increasing partisan divides across the country, as if he were merely a passive observer at best and a victim at worst. Uncharacteristically, the president is being too modest. He has created the very rancor he now rails against. Imagine how different things would be if Mr. Obama had pursued a stimulus bill that included targeted tax cuts and infrastructure spending balanced with gradual entitlement reforms--instead of a stimulus that merely dusted off congressional Democrats' wish list of pork-barrel projects and ideological experiments.
Imagine if Mr. Obama had actually worked with Republicans in an open process to bring down health-care costs--instead of pushing through, on a partisan vote, the largest expansion of government-welfare programs in a generation. Or if he had listened to the message that voters sent in the first midterm election by putting Republicans in charge of Congress--instead of petulantly relying on executive orders, and using an eraser and whiteout on the Constitution, to shove the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies deeper into Americans' lives. [The Wall Street Journal, 3/3/16]
NY Times' Douthat: Trump Is “A Creature Of The Late Obama Era.” In February 27 article, The New York Times' Ross Douthat wrote that, while Trump is “first and foremost a Republican” problem, his campaign success is also a result of the “late Obama era,” in part because of the president's alleged efforts to “make domestic policy without any support from Congress”:
The spectacle of the Republican Party's Trumpian meltdown has inspired a mix of glee and fear among liberals -- glee over their rivals' self-immolation, and fear that what arises from the destruction will be worse.
What it hasn't inspired is much in the way of self-examination, or a recognition of the way that Obama-era trends in liberal politics have helped feed the Trump phenomenon.
Such a recognition wouldn't require letting the Republican Party off the hook. The Trump uprising is first and foremost a Republican and conservative problem: There would be no Trumpism if George W. Bush's presidency hadn't cratered, no Trumpism if the party hadn't alternated between stoking and ignoring working-class grievances, no Trump as front-runner if the party leadership and his rivals had committed fully to stopping him before now.
But Trumpism is also a creature of the late Obama era, irrupting after eight years when a charismatic liberal president has dominated the cultural landscape and set the agenda for national debates. President Obama didn't give us Trump in any kind of Machiavellian or deliberate fashion. But it isn't an accident that this is the way the Obama era ends -- with a reality TV demagogue leading a populist, nationalist revolt.
He's also proving, in his bullying, overpromising style, that voters are increasingly habituated to the idea of an ever more imperial presidency -- which is also a trend that Obama's choices have accelerated. Having once campaigned against his predecessor's power grabs, the current president has expanded executive authority along almost every dimension: launching wars without congressional approval, claiming the power to assassinate American citizens, and using every available end-around to make domestic policy without any support from Congress. [The New York Times, 2/27/16]
Fox Contributor: Trump's Rise “Is Payback For Barack Obama.” During the March 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox contributor Keith Ablow claimed “pent-up frustration” about Obama's presidency created Trump's presidential campaign:
BRIAN KILMEADE (HOST): Another night of record turnout for Donald Trump as the GOP front-runner wins three out of the four state contests. Where does his support come from? Where has it been coming from? Here to take us inside the mind of a Donald Trump supporter, psychiatrist, Fox News contributor, all-around nice guy Dr. Keith Ablow. Dr. Ablow, this is not a normal election. So tell me why is this outsider doing so well in the mainstream?
KEITH ABLOW: Well listen, I think the main reason is one thing, Barack Obama. Barack Obama fed America a bunch of lies about how we're terrible people. He went on apology tours. He attended a church where the preacher was preaching terrible things about America. There's pent-up frustration about him. People are ready to say no, no, America, and there's an American. He has lots of businesses. He's unapologetic.
ABLOW: He's a nationalist. This is payback for Barack Obama. But it's also payback for the Republicans who let that happen. I don't think people can believe it. That we let this guy occupy the Oval Office for eight years. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/9/16]
Conservatives Decided Not To Work With Democrats From Day One
Senate Leader's Goal: Make Obama A One-Term President. In a 2010 speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged that his primary goal was to block Obama's “fellow Democrats” in any way:
Two days after Republicans scored big victories in congressional elections, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday offered an aggressive assessment of the results, calling for votes to erode the reach of the health care law that was a signature of the Obama administration.
“That means that we can -- and should -- propose and vote on straight repeal, repeatedly,” McConnell said.
McConnell's remarks, in a speech delivered to the conservative Heritage Foundation, acknowledged that Obama would veto such legislation, which probably would be blocked by the president's fellow Democrats in the Senate anyway.
He said the only way Republicans in Congress can achieve their goals is “to put someone in the White House who won't veto” a repeal of Obama's health care reform, spending cuts and shrinking the government. [NBCnews.com, 11/4/2010]
Huffington Post: Republican Attempts To Block Obama Started The “Night Of Inauguration.” In a April 25, 2012, article, The Huffington Post's Sam Stein wrote about Robert Draper's book detailing a meeting between top GOP leaders the night of the inauguration. Draper reported that Sen. Kevin McCarthy allegedly urged fellow Republicans to challenge Democrats “on every single bill”:
As President Barack Obama was celebrating his inauguration at various balls, top Republican lawmakers and strategists were conjuring up ways to submarine his presidency at a private dinner in Washington.
For several hours in the Caucus Room (a high-end D.C. establishment), the book says they plotted out ways to not just win back political power, but to also put the brakes on Obama's legislative platform.
“If you act like you're the minority, you're going to stay in the minority,” Draper quotes McCarthy as saying. “We've gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.” [The Huffington Post, 4/25/12]
Obamacare Included Numerous GOP Ideas In Health Care Bill, And They Were Nonetheless Opposed By Republicans
President Obama: "[W]hen You Say I Ought To Be Willing To Accept Republican Ideas On Health Care, Let's Be Clear: I Have." During Obama's question-and-answer period during his House GOP retreat visit on January 29, 2010, he mentioned some of the GOP ideas on health care reform that were included in the Senate bill, such as: “creating a high-risk pool for uninsured folks with preexisting conditions”; “allowing insurance companies to sell coverage across state lines”; “creating pools where self-employed and small businesses could buy insurance”; “let[ting] kids remain covered on their parents' insurance until they're 25 or 26”; “incentivizing wellness”; and “creating an affordable catastrophic insurance option for young people”:
This is a big problem, and all of us are called on to solve it. And that's why, from the start, I sought out and supported ideas from Republicans. I even talked about an issue that has been a holy grail for a lot of you, which was tort reform, and said that I'd be willing to work together as part of a comprehensive package to deal with it. I just didn't get a lot of nibbles.
Creating a high-risk pool for uninsured folks with preexisting conditions, that wasn't my idea, it was Senator McCain's. And I supported it, and it got incorporated into our approach. Allowing insurance companies to sell coverage across state lines to add choice and competition and bring down costs for businesses and consumers -- that's an idea that some of you I suspect included in this better solutions; that's an idea that was incorporated into our package. And I support it, provided that we do it hand in hand with broader reforms that protect benefits and protect patients and protect the American people.
A number of you have suggested creating pools where self-employed and small businesses could buy insurance. That was a good idea. I embraced it. Some of you supported efforts to provide insurance to children and let kids remain covered on their parents' insurance until they're 25 or 26. I supported that. That's part of our package. I supported a number of other ideas, from incentivizing wellness to creating an affordable catastrophic insurance option for young people that came from Republicans like Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe in the Senate, and I'm sure from some of you as well. So when you say I ought to be willing to accept Republican ideas on health care, let's be clear: I have. [Remarks by the President at GOP House Issues Conference, 1/29/2010]
Ezra Klein: “I Don't Think It's Well Understood How Many Of The GOP's Central Health-Care Policy Ideas” Are In The Senate Bill. In a February 8, 2010, blog post, then-Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein wrote that the “four planks” of health care laid out on the House Republican Conference's website are all included in the Senate bill that later became law, specifically the website's calls to “Let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines”; “Allow individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and labor unions do”; “Give states the tools to create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs”; and “End junk lawsuits.” Klein also wrote that the excise tax included in the Senate bill “does virtually the same thing” as President Bush's 2007 proposal to cap the tax break for employer-sponsored insurance, and that the bill is “a private-market plan” that does not include the public option. [Washington Post, 2/8/2010]
Senate Bills Had Numerous GOP Amendments And Reflected Bipartisan Meetings. According to a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee document about bipartisan aspects of the health reform bill the committee passed July 15, 2009, the final bill included “161 Republican amendments,” including several from Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Pat Roberts (R-KS) and others, which " make certain that nothing in the legislation will allow for rationing of care. It also says the amendments reflected the efforts of “six bipartisan working groups” that “met a combined 72 times” in 2009 as well as “30 bipartisan hearings on health care reform” since 2007, half of which were held in 2009. And according to the Senate Finance Committee's September 22, 2009, document (this link doesn't work) detailing the amendments to the Chairman's Mark considered, at least 13 amendments sponsored by one or more Republican senators were included in the bill. [Media Matters, 11/8/2010]
GOP Senators Made Clear They Didn't Intend To Negotiate With Democrats In Good Faith On Health Care. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) asserted during a July 17, 2009, conference call organized by the anti-health care reform group Conservatives for Patients Rights while discussing health care reform: “If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.” Similarly, Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) reportedly admitted on August 18, 2009, that “almost all Republicans” will oppose Democratic health care reform efforts, regardless of the compromises Democrats might make in attempting to win their support. And Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley during an August 2009 town hall meeting told the audience they “have every right to fear” the end-of-life counseling provision in the House bill, adding that we “should not have a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma.” During an August 2009 interview, Grassley also admitted he wouldn't vote for his own bill if the GOP remained opposed. The Senate Finance Committee also held 31 “bipartisan meetings to discuss the development of a health care reform bill.” [Media Matters, 11/8/2010]