In journalist Robert Draper’s new book on the 112th Congress, “Do Not Ask What Good We Do,” he describes a dinner meeting among top Republicans on the day of Pres. Obama’s Inauguration, Jan. 21, 2009. The purpose of the meeting that day — the same day George Bush, whose policy failures they had been supported in lockstep, flew out of Washington as the most unpopular president in the history presidential polling — was to lick their wounds and to plot their comeback.
On hand were disgraced former GOP Speaker, Newt Gingrich, Republican pollster/propagandist Frank Lutz, GOP propagandist Fred Barnes as well as senior Republican elected officials, including Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Ensign of Nevada and Bob Corker of Tennessee, as well as Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia, Kevin McCarthy of California, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Dan Lungren of California and others. (Then-Minority Leader John Boehner was not there — he and Luntz are not speaking.)
Four months earlier, the financial markets had melted down plunging the U.S. economy into its worst freefall since 1929. As they were meeting in January, the United States was suffering its worst job losses in a month in 34 years. Over 3.5 million jobs had been lost in 2008, nearly 2 million of those losses had occurred in the three months prior to the GOP fatcats’ elegant dinner meeting. And there was no end to it in sight.
From the outset it was apparent that the root cause of the financial meltdown had been caused by a perfect storm of Republican’s refusal to pay for spending on their needless wars and other policies, their trickle-down economic policies and their trademark hands-off approach to regulation and oversight.
A few weeks after the economic crash, voters had flocked to the polls and delivered judgement on the incompetence and corruption of these leaders and their party during the Bush years. So what was the takeaway from all this for these Republican Party establishment leaders — what lessons had they learned from the suffering their policies had caused for their constituents?
No spoiler alert here. We all know the answer: They had learned nothing. They accepted no responsibility for the economic crash, the Bush-GOP recession that had the country in its grip or even the thumpin’ voters had given them just 70 days or so earlier.
Instead, according to Draper, the plan they came up with that night was to work in concert to make the recession worse:
The dinner lasted nearly four hours. They parted company almost giddily. The Republicans had agreed on a way forward:
Go after Geithner. (And indeed Kyl did, the next day: ‘Would you answer my question rather than dancing around it—please?’)
Show united and unyielding opposition to the president’s economic policies. (Eight days later, Minority Whip Cantor would hold the House Republicans to a unanimous No against Obama’s economic stimulus plan.)…
Win the spear point of the House in 2010. Jab Obama relentlessly in 2011. Win the White House and the Senate in 2012. (Emphasis added.)
At the end of the night, Gingrich proclaimed, “You will remember this day. You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.”
The fact that these Republican leaders met to conspire to stall the recovery is only surprising in that a face-to-face was not necessary. These old pols knew that their easiest route back to power was to do whatever was in their collective power to stall the economy — whatever hurt that might cause their constituents was just collateral damage.
Every American who has been paying attention over the past three and a half years — with the exception of those who only get their “news” from Fox — knows that this is exactly what the GOP has done. In the states, Republican governors first laid off teachers, cops and firemen in order to increase the unemployment rolls and then refused to pursue much-needed infrastructure spending to make it appear the stimulus spending did not work.
In Washington, meanwhile, Republicans in Congress executed their trademark goose-stepping in lockstep to obstruct any and every bill — even raising the debt ceiling — that might have a positive outcome in the economy.
This may not have been treasonous — these Republican pols did not “[levy] war against [the United States], or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort” — but they did betray their bond of trust with voters. And they are continuing to pursue these traitorous objectives now.