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With the looming possibility of Democrats losing their grip on the House and possibly even the Senate in Tuesday's midterm elections, President Barack Obama took some time in his weekly address on Oct. 30, 2010, to talk about the need to work in a bipartisan way to solve the country's most pressing issues, such as the weak economy.
But Obama said a couple recent comments from Republican leaders weren't a good harbinger.
"Whatever the outcome on Tuesday, we need to come together to help put people who are still looking for jobs back to work," Obama said.
"On these issues -- issues that will determine our success or failure in this new century -- I believe it’s the fundamental responsibility of all who hold elective office to seek out common ground," Obama said. "It may not always be easy to find agreement; at times we’ll have legitimate philosophical differences. And it may not always be the best politics. But it is the right thing to do for our country.
"That’s why I found the recent comments by the top two Republican in Congress so troubling. The Republican leader of the House actually said that "this is not the time for compromise." And the Republican leader of the Senate said his main goal after this election is simply to win the next one."
We're fact-checking the last part, the claim that "the Republican leader of the Senate said his main goal after this election is simply to win the next one."
It's based on a comment Sen. Mitch McConnelll made in an interview with the National Journal's Major Garrett on Oct. 29, 2010: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
So McConnelll said it. But we think some further context is in order.
McConnell said he had been studying the history of presidents who suffered big defeats in midterm elections in Congress, but then won re-election in two years anyway. McConnelll said he doesn't want Republicans to repeat the same mistakes that allowed that to happen.
"After 1994, the public had the impression we Republicans overpromised and underdelivered," McConnell said. "We suffered from some degree of hubris and acted as if the president was irrelevant and we would roll over him. By the summer of 1995, he was already on the way to being re-elected, and we were hanging on for our lives."
McConnell said Republicans need to treat the midterm elections as "the first step in retaking the government."
It was in that context that McConnell said, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
Garrett asked if that meant "endless, or at least frequent, confrontation with the president?"
Said McConnell, "If President Obama does a Clintonian backflip, if he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it’s not inappropriate for us to do business with him."
In other words, in the very same interview, McConnell said that he'd be willing to work with Obama if Obama is "willing to meet us halfway." That's called compromise. And that sounds very much in the spirit of Obama's call to "seek out common ground."
The other comment Obama referred to came from House Leader John Boeher in a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Oct. 27, 2010. It was made in the context of the health care bill, in response to retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) saying it wouldn't be a good idea to repeal the bill. "This is not a time for compromise," Boehner said. "...We're going to do everything -- and I mean everything -- we can do, to kill it, stop it, slow it down." We think Obama's comment leaves the impression Boehner's "not a time for compromise" statement was more general in nature -- as opposed to being specifically targeted at the health care bill.
As for McConnell's comment "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," that sounds an awful lot like Obama's summation that "his main goal after this election is simply to win the next one." But while McConnell said it, Obama left out an important detail -- that McConnell also said in the same interview that he is willing to meet the president halfway. That leads us to a ruling of Half True.
White House website, Obama's Weekly Address: Working Together on the Economy, Oct. 30, 2010
National Journal, "Top GOP Priority: Make Obama a One-Term President," by Major Garrett, Oct. 29, 2010
Washington Post, Op-Ed: "The Republican Party could use some adults," by Dana Milbank, Oct. 31, 2010
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