The softball question from a sympathetic interviewer was a fine opening for President Obama to start making nice with the new Republican Congress he’ll face in January.
Instead, he used it to issue a veto threat.
The jarring takeaway from a 40-minute pre-vacation interview Obama conducted with the reliably liberal NPR (see the transcript here) was part of Obama’s answer to a question about what he could do to improve his relationship with the Republican Congress once the GOP officially takes over the Senate in January.
“Is there anything that you personally intend to do differently in your approach to Congress in hopes of getting better results in your final two years than you have on some occasions in the past?” NPR’s Jim Inskeep asked.
Maybe he was expecting to hear about invites to the White House for dinner and a movie maybe? Not quite.
First, the president was petulant.
I’m obviously frustrated with the results of the midterm election. I think we had a great record for members of Congress to run on, and I don’t think we — myself and the Democratic Party — made as good of a case as we should have. And, you know, as a consequence, we had really low voter turnout, and the results were bad.
Then he pointed fingers
On the other hand, now you’ve got Republicans in a position where it’s not enough for them simply to grind the wheels of Congress to a halt and then blame me. They are going to be in a position in which they have to show that they can responsibly govern, given that they have significant majorities in both chambers ….
Then he threatened.
“There are going to be some areas where we disagree and, you know, I haven’t used the veto pen very often since I’ve been in office, partly because legislation that I objected to was typically blocked in the Senate even after the House took over — Republicans took over the House.
“Now I suspect there are going to be some times where I’ve got to pull that pen out. And I’m going to defend gains that we’ve made in health care. I’m going to defend gains that we’ve made on environment and clean air and clean water.”
Republicans are in no position to guarantee a veto override – even with wavering Dems like West Virginia Joe Manchin, 67 override votes in the Senate will border on impossible – so Obama’s petulant veto promise pretty much assures trench warfare in Washington for the last two years of the Obama era.
Unlike the first two disastrous years, though, Reid and Nancy Pelosi won’t be in the drivers’ seats.
Elections have consequences.
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