In the wake of what he described as a shellacking, President Obama repeatedly detailed his willingness to sit down with Republicans, share ideas, find areas of agreement, compromise.
But the press didn't mention the elephant in the room -- so to speak. There is little reason to believe that Republican leaders have either the desire or the capacity to compromise -- particularly on jobs.
The Republican job program -- keep all taxes where they are, cut domestic sending by $100 billion next year, repeal the Recovery Act and TARP funding, and give small businesses a tax cut -- will cost more jobs than it creates. Rep. John Boehner, the perpetually tanned future Speaker of the House, was truculent in his election eve remarks, arguing the voters message to the President was "change course." And the way to do that was to make government smaller and cut spending. Rep. Eric Cantor, future majority leader, said the first thing for Republicans to do is to repeal the health care bill. Not exactly, a "let's reason together" position.
Moreover, it isn't at all clear Boehner has the capacity to compromise even if he wanted to. Republicans are now terrified by their tea-party base -- and from Sen Jim DeMint to Sarah Palin, they've made it clear that they will oppose any compromise with Obama.
Worse, there is good reason to doubt that Republican leaders are interested in productive compromise. Sen Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, said their number one objective was to make certain that "Barack Obama is a one-term president." He didn't say create jobs, get the economy going, balance the budget, lower taxes. No, the number one objective was to beat Obama.
So what happens if Republicans don't compromise? No boost to jobs. No agreement on rebuilding our infrastructure. Hard pushes to keep taxes where they are, and cut spending. Gridlock insures a stagnant economy. But will Republican leaders care? A bad economy will be blamed on the president, not the majority party in the House. They can show their base that they are against spending, and let Obama take the rap for economic stagnation.
President Reagan and President Clinton recovered from midterm reverses to win re-election on the back of growing economies. If your number one objective is to beat Obama, then a recovering economy is a problem, not a solution. An economic agenda that caters to the anti-government passions of the conservative base even as it contributes to economic stagnation may suit Republican leaders just fine. Obstruction turns to Destruction.