Olbermann Frets Obama Will Cave to McConnell 'Instead of Kicking Him in the Ass'
On Thursday's Countdown show on MSNBC, as he plugged a segment on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's appeal to President Obama to cooperate with the GOP, host Keith Olbermann suggested that Obama should "kick" the "ass" of McConnell rather than surrender to the Republican Senator's demands. Referring to McConnell during a plug, Olbermann complained: "Once again, he honestly explains what compromise means: agreeing with him. And instead of kicking him in the ass, the President agrees to sit down and chat."
After a few more plugs in which the Countdown host mocked McConnell for asking Obama to move in the Republican direction on issues, Olbermann got to the segment and played a clip of the Senate Republican Leader speaking to the conservative Heritage Foundation. After bringing aboard the Huffington Post's Howard Fineman, the MSNBC host held his hands over his head and began the discussion: "Forgive me. I have to deal with this headache immediately, so I'm doing this right at the moment."
He soon asked Fineman if President Obama would ever realize that trying to compromise with Republicans "hasn't gotten me a lick of spit" and give up:
What will it take for the President to say, you know, even if we're going to have dinner and even if it's going to be a really good dinner, because the best restaurant in Washington is clearly in the White House, but, I mean, to just say, look, this moral high ground that I want to maintain at all times about being the one willing to compromise, it hasn't gotten me a lick of spit in nearly two years, I'm not going to do this anymore. Is that possible in either of our life times?
Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Wednesday, November 4, Countdown show on MSNBC:
KEITH OLBERMANN, DURING COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:18 P.M., WITH IMAGE OF SENATE MINORITY MITCH MCCONNELL BEHIND HIM: Once again, he honestly explains what compromise means: agreeing with him. And instead of kicking him in the ass, the President agrees to sit down and chat.
OLBERMANN, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:25 P.M.: The Mitch McConnell speech to the Heritage Foundation today, it was not as bad as we thought, it was worse. And instructs the Presidents how to compromise with Republicans by surrendering. Which he may do. Next.
OLBERMANN, AT 8:29 P.M.: Mitch McConnell stays on message: Compromise means agree with him. The President stays on message, he might just do that.
OLBERMANN, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:31 P.M.: Senator McConnell says it again: Compromise between the White House and the Republicans means the White House must agree with the Republicans. The White House still doesn't seem to get how all this ends.
OLBERMANN: The first clue for psychologists: Is the patient doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result? In our third story tonight, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell forthrightly restated what compromise means to him: The President needs to compromise all his principles, promises, commitments, pledges, goals, ideas, platform planks, and personal beliefs, and do exactly as McConnell tells him and then they can talk. Once again, the President thinks he sees an opening.
At the right-wing Heritage Foundation, laying out his instructions to the President, Mr. McConnell reprised his comments from last week. The Republicans' main goal over the next 24 months won't be jobs, it will be making sure the President does not get a second term.
MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Over the past week, some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term. But the fact is if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all of those things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things.
OLBERMANN: He's lying there, of course, he didn't say top political priority. He said something else was the top political priority. He said getting Obama out of office with one term was the top priority, period. So what the Republicans will plan on is forcing votes on repealing the White House's key legislative accomplishments, and the first stop, health care reform.
MCCONNELL CLIP #1: On health care, that means we can and should propose and vote on straight repeal repeatedly.
MCCONNELL CLIP #2: We'll also have to work in the House on denying funds for implementation and in the Senate on votes against its most egregious provisions.
OLBERMANN: McConnell admitting that rapid repeal is highly unlikely, that even so the legislation would serve as a useful tool for those useful tool Republicans with which to hammer the White House.
MCCONNELL CLIP #1: We may not win every vote against targeted provisions-
MCCONNELL CLIP #2: -but we can compel the officials to attempt to defend this indefensible health spending bill and other costly government-driven measures.
OLBERMANN: The CBO finds that repealing health care would add another $140 billion to the deficit, which undermines McConnell's assertion that Republicans are actually serious about reducing the deficit. At the same time, the Minority Leader attempted to inoculate his party from any responsibility in their continued obstructionism, and then gave the White House another ultimatum.
MCCONNELL: But as I see it, the White House has a choice. They can change course or they can double down on a vision of government that the American people have roundly rejected. If the administration wants cooperation, it will have to begin to move in our direction.
OLBERMANN: Across town, the President, of course, extending a White House invitation to the Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress, hoping, yet again, for bipartisanship.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is going to be a meeting in which I want us to talk substantively about how we can move the American people's agenda forward. It's not just going to be a photo op. Hopefully it may spill over into dinner.
OLBEMANN: Arghh. Joining me now, MSNBC political analyst and the senior political editor of the Huffington Post, Howard Finemann. Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Forgive me. I have to deal with this headache immediately, so I'm doing this right at the moment. The Democrats last week pounced when Mr. McConnell said his stated goal was making Obama a one-term President. He said it was his priority. Today so far, crickets. Is there constraint? Is the White House saying don't say anything? What's going on? Why is it so silent?
FINEMAN: For one thing, it's a heck of a way to treat somebody who's invited you to dinner, by Mitch McConnell, saying, you know, I can't wait for you to get kicked out of that house you're going to have us over to. And I thought Robert Gibbs at the White House briefing today, he wasn't quite crickets but he wasn't much louder than that. They're being very low-voiced over at the White House because they do have this meeting on the 18th that may or may not turn into dinner. I think it's supposed to be dinner. I always, my ears always perk up when a politician denies something he hasn't been accused of. The President said this is not a photo op. In fact, that's pretty much what it is with a lot of spin doctoring in between.
OLBERMANN: What will it take for the President to say, you know, even if we're going to have dinner and even if it's going to be a really good dinner, because the best restaurant in Washington is clearly in the White House, but, I mean, to just say, look, this moral high ground that I want to maintain at all times about being the one willing to compromise, it hasn't gotten me a lick of spit in nearly two years, I'm not going to do this anymore. Is that possible in either of our life times?
FINEMAN: Well, I think it is possible. I'm tempted to say that it, you know, the President will change his mind after 10 straight subpoenas from Darrell Issa on the House side. But more than that, I think the President's strategy here is to seem to be the reasonable one and wait for the other side to be clearly unreasonable in the minds of the American people. But the problem the President's got is that the Republicans have decided to pursue the strategy, and they're going to keep pursuing it, and they were sort of in a way rewarded for it on Tuesday night.
OLBERMANN: Do you know how the President defines "clearly unreasonable"? Is it coming to the White House and trying to burn the place down?
FINEMAN, LAUGHING: Well, listen, I think he's up, he's in a situation here where Mitch McConnell, from the very beginning even before the President was inaugurated, made it clear what his goal was, which is to make him a one-term President. Mitch McConnell was firmed up in that view of how to operate by the speeches that he gave against closing Guantanamo. It seems like a small footnote, but, having covered him for a long time, he went out there early in the administration and gave like 20, 30 speeches about Guantanamo. Then people came around, nobody paid attention, then people came around to his point of view. That confirmed in McConnell's mind that relentless, total opposition on all fronts is the way to go. And they're going to make the centerpiece of it, Keith, health care. Because, by agitating against the health care law, it takes up space, it gives the Republicans the sort of philosophical argument with which to talk to the Tea Party. And it's more convenient for the Republicans to talk about repealing or scaling back health care than to talk about jobs, the economy and real deficit reduction, which would involve perhaps looking at Social Security and Medicare, which the Republicans really don't want to do.
OLBERMANN: That then gets to the final question. Why does the President continue to turn the other cheek and let papier-mache Republicans like McConnell make him look bad?
FINEMAN: I don't have an answer to that. In rereading the history of the Clinton years, I think Barack Obama, and he was reading Taylor Branch's book, has come to the viewpoint that the Republicans overplayed their hand, that Newt Gingrich behaved like the guy who was in charge. By surrendering the stage to Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton ultimately after a year of very clever politics prospered. There are two problems with that. First of all, the Republicans are reading the same history, and they're trying to be very careful not to stride on the stage and say we're going to fix the economy, we're going to get you all a job, etc., etc. They're focusing on still being antagonistic on health care. Also, I'm not convinced that Barack Obama has the political chops that Bill Clinton had.
OLBERMANN: Plus, when they let him back on the stage, they then impeached Mr. Clinton.
FINEMAN: After he was re-elected.
OLBERMANN: Howard Finemann, the senior political editor. Well, that's good. That's a great outcome of the reelection, too. Howard Fineman, senior political editor of the Huffington Post, thanks for being with us tonight. I'm sorry if I yelled at you. It's not your fault.
- Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center