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Showing that Hostage-Taking Works

By       Message Robert Parry       (Page 1 of 6 pages)     Permalink

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This article cross-posted from Consortium News

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaking on the economy. (Photo credit: Romney campaign)

The dismal May jobs report underscores the success of the Republicans' strategy of frustrating President Barack Obama's economic policies from the second he took office and, in effect, holding the struggling U.S. economy hostage to GOP electoral victories.

Already, pundits are declaring that the anemic increase of only 69,000 jobs in May will help put Mitt Romney in the White House -- and that may well be true because the mainstream U.S. press is playing the disappointing job numbers as proof of Obama's "failed" economic policies, rather than a result of persistent Republican sabotage.

It doesn't seem to matter to American journalists that the evidence of this Republican plot to make the U.S. economy "scream" has been out in the open for the past several years, including author Robert Draper's report of a destroy-Obama strategy session on the night of Obama's Inauguration and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's famous vow that the top Republican priority must be ensuring Obama's defeat.

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More than two years ago, on March 31, 2010, I wrote that there was "a method to the Republican 'madness,'" that "the Republicans are following a playbook that has evolved over more than four decades, to regain power by sabotaging Democratic presidents. ...

"The Republicans believe they can reclaim the lucrative levers of national authority by making the country as ungovernable as possible while a Democrat is in the White House, essentially holding governance hostage until they are restored to power. Then, the Democrats are expected to behave as a docile opposition 'for the good of the country' (and usually do)."

The mainstream U.S. press aids and abets this GOP strategy by downplaying or ignoring what the Republicans are up to. So, rather than hold Republicans to account for their sabotage of Obama's efforts to repair the broken economy left by President George W. Bush, the mainstream U.S. media follows the GOP narrative that Obama is to blame for the sputtering job creation.

Similarly, in 2009, the news media bought into the GOP narrative that Obama was at fault for the "failure" to end partisan bickering in Washington, though it was clearly the Republicans who were escalating those partisan wars with attacks on pretty much whatever Obama did. They even attacked him when he urged American school children to study hard.

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The press blamed Obama for the bickering despite the evidence that he sought bipartisanship even to his own detriment, like when he wasted time wooing the health-care vote of Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. But the narrative remains that Obama "failed" at bipartisanship, not that the Republicans prevented it.

As part of this narrative, the mainstream press even began to act as if it were normal for the Senate to require 60 votes to pass nearly all legislation.

This media pattern is not new, of course. For decades now, national journalists have been terrified of being labeled "liberal" and facing right-wing retaliation. It's much safer to just adopt GOP narratives no matter what the facts are.

So, it's not surprising that the press is forgetting the history of the past three-plus years, when Republicans first worked to water down Obama's stimulus package and then did all they could to talk down the already battered economy.

Plus, at key moments when the economic recovery started to rev up, such as in early 2011, the Republican saboteurs promptly threw a debt-default crisis into the gears. Now, right-wing billionaires are spending millions of dollars in attack ads to further undermine American confidence in Obama and the economic recovery.

Meanwhile, the American Left remains extremely weak when it comes to explaining the key role that government must play in a modern economy. In general, progressives lack anything like the media power of the Right to reach out to voters.

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History of GOP Sabotage

As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, it's worth noting that another part of America's "lost history" is how these Republican "hostage" strategies can be traced back to the ruthless tactics of Richard Nixon.

After Nixon's narrow loss to John Kennedy in 1960 and his humiliating defeat for California governor in 1962, Nixon grew determined to do whatever was necessary not to lose again.

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at

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