In case you haven’t heard, Republicans are adamant that when Obama announces his immigration reform executive action tonight, he will be “poisoning the well.”
But how can you poison a well that’s already been poisoned so many times? Why, it seems every time the President takes a position, according to Republicans, he’s “poisoning the well.”
When President Obama tried to pass background checks on gun sales after Newtown — a policy supported by 9 in 10 voters — Lindsey Graham accused him of poisoning the well. And when Obama signed legislation reforming a broken health care system — a goal of Democratic and Republican presidents for decades — John McCain said he had poisoned the well. Jeff Flake said that if Obama took any credit for the immigration reform principles in the bipartisan Senate bill, he would be poisoning the well. According to Marco Rubio, policy to protect DREAMers poisoned the well. To other Republicans it was the president’s refusal to cave to their demands during their government shutdown that poisoned the well, or criticizing Paul Ryan’s draconian budget, or passing a stimulus package, or repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
So what was truly the moment when President Obama poisoned the well? What was the well-poisoning-iest moment of his illustrious well-poisoning career? To Republicans, it appears that perhaps it was just the moment he was elected president — ever since then, the GOP can’t stop finding newly poisoned wells.
So if you care to visit GOP-Delusionland, where “King” Obama rules, be sure not to drink the water. Here in the real world, the president will be busy taking legal and meaningful action to enact immigration reform. Republicans in Congress have left him no choice.
Sen. Jeff Flake: If Obama Took Partial Credit For A Deal On Immigration Principles Reached By Eight Senators, It Would “Poison The Well” With Republicans. According to The Hill, “Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) warned President Obama to not take partial credit for a deal on immigration “principles” reached by a bipartisan group of eight senators, saying it could ‘poison the well’ with Republicans. Flake, one of eight senators who worked on the deal, criticized Obama for doing little on immigration reform over the last four years and said it would be better if the Senate took the lead on the issue. Asked what the fallout would be if Obama takes some credit for the framework in the speech, Flake said: ‘It hurts. It certainly would poison the well with a lot of Republicans.’” [The Hill, 1/29/13]
Marco Rubio: Obama’s 2012 Executive Orders On Immigration “Poisoned The Well.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “During last year’s debate over the Dream Act, Mr. Rubio tried to gather support for a less ‘broad’ alternative. Republicans didn’t like its pathway to citizenship. His efforts caught the eye of the Obama campaign. President Obama pre-empted—or outmaneuvered—him. The president’s executive order offered two-year reprieves from deportation and work permits for young immigrants, and helped him with Hispanics in the election. It was a lesson for Mr. Rubio, who saw his compromise efforts die as a result. Mr. Obama ‘may have even set back the cause a bit. He’s poisoned the well for people willing to take on this issue,’ Mr. Rubio says. But he’s still ready to do so, though he claims—as hard as it is to believe—that he hasn’t “done the political calculus on this.” As he knows, politics is everything on immigration.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/14/13]
Lindsey Graham: Obama’s Strategy On Gun Control “Poisoned The Well.” According to Buzzfeed, “Asked about the White House strategy on the gun push, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told BuzzFeed it ‘couldn’t have been any worse.’ ‘It’s tone deaf,’ Graham said. ‘He’s been a political cheerleader on this, and he’s poisoned the well. There’s some solutions out there, but he picked three things that really wouldn’t fix the system’ Graham added that the three measures Obama called for may have been what ‘the left wanted,’ but they weren’t policies his Republican colleagues in the Senate believed would be effective.” [Buzzfeed, 4/20/13]
GOP Leadership Aide: “The President’s Actions And Attitude… Have Certainly Poisoned The Well And Made It Harder To Work Together On Any Issue” After Shutdown Fight. According NBC News, “Prospects for a comprehensive immigration reform bill remain cloudy after a bruising shutdown fight for Republicans that left hard feelings in Washington even as activists continue to push their cause. ‘The president’s actions and attitude over the past couple of weeks have certainly poisoned the well and made it harder to work together on any issue,’ said a GOP leadership aide asked about the chances of major immigration legislation making it to the White House.” [NBC News, 10/20/13]
Sen. Orrin Hatch: “If The Senate Majority Pursues [Passing A Tax Reform Package], It Will Poison The Well For Tax Reform.” According to the text of a floor speech given by Senator Orrin Hatch via the Library of Congress, “There is simply no way to pass a purely partisan tax reform package with the current makeup of Congress. Make no mistake, if the Senate majority pursues this course of action, it will poison the well for tax reform. It will make it all but impossible.” [Sen. Orrin Hatch Floor Speech – Library of Congress, 3/11/13]
U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Spokesman Bruce Josten: Obama National Labor Relations Board Appointments “Further Poison The Well.” According to The Hill, “But the move also puts [President]Obama at odds with business, which has clashed repeatedly with the NLRB in recent months. Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, denounced the recess appointments as political favoritism and said they will ‘further poison the well’ at the labor board.” [The Hill, 1/04/12]
Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer: Obama Pushing For Susan Rice Nomination “Would Poison The Well.” According to the National Journal, “As former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer put it, ‘Nothing is isolated in the presidency. Every action has an interaction with other events.’ Obama is ‘playing a firm hand’ in the fiscal cliff standoff and trying to get Republicans to buckle on tax rates, said Fleischer, who worked for Bush.’If he also says Republicans need to buckle on Rice, all his actions would poison the well.’” [National Journal,12/5/12]
Mitch McConnell Spokesman Don Stewart: Democrats Changing Senate Rules Would “Poison The Well” For Bipartisanship. According to The Hill, “Senate GOP leadership aides say any effort to change the rules by a partisan party-line vote will ‘poison the well’ for reaching bipartisan deals. ‘We hope Democrats will work toward allowing members of both sides to be involved in the legislative process — rather than poisoning the well on the very first day of the next Congress,’ said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).” [The Hill, 11/13/12]
Jim DeMint: President’s Executive Orders On Immigration “Poisoned The Well.” According to Roll Call, “But [Mitch] McConnell isn’t alone. Other Republicans are also uncertain about what to do about President Barack Obama’s shift last week to immigration policy. It’s an issue that has vexed Republicans for years, and as Obama no doubt hopes, it has the potential to cost them Hispanic votes and the election in November. […]Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said that the president’s decision effectively poisoned the well for getting anything on DREAM or comprehensive legislation done this year.” [Roll Call via Nexis, 6/20/12]
Anonymous GOP Aide: Obama Picked A Fight On Budget Negotiations And “Poisoned The Well, And Now We Are Likely To Have A Rather Unproductive Next Four Years. The Decision He Made Only Hurts Himself.” According to the McClatchy-Tribune, “If no grand budget deal was possible in the face of Obama’s insistence on raising tax rates for the wealthy, they determined they could opt for what Boehner has called “trench warfare” – fighting the White House first over tax rates and then at every moment in the legislative calendar. Republicans knew their leverage on the tax issue would be limited with an Obama victory, but some believe the next several months will offer new pressure points as Congress must again raise the federal debt limit and pass legislation to keep the federal government from shutting down. ‘The president made a strategic miscalculation and overreached,’ said one GOP aide granted anonymity to discuss party strategy. ‘He could have worked to reach a fair agreement, but instead he picked a fight, poisoned the well, and now we are likely to have a rather unproductive next four years. The decision he made only hurts himself.’” [McClatchy-Tribune via Nexis, 12/27/12]
Rep. Paul Ryan: Obama’s Criticism Of Ryan Budget “Poisoned The Well” In The Budget Debate. According to PBS, “When the Republican party’s numbers wunderkind Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin proposed an austere budget that would cut spending, lower taxes, repeal the president’s health care law and privatize medicare, the White House saw the plan as a direct assault. And as Republicans rallied around Ryan’s budget, President Obama took to a speech at George Washington University in April of 2011 to condemn it and announce his own proposal for reducing the deficit. […]What President Obama didn’t realize, his aides insist, was that Ryan had been invited to the event, and was sitting in the front row listening to the president blast his plan. Ryan had attended the event thinking it would be an opportunity for the two sides to start to come together in order to negotiate. Instead, he sat taking notes and shaking his head in disgust. When the address was over, he made a quick exit, telling the president’s top economic adviser Gene Sperling, who had followed him out, that he thought the president had ‘poisoned the well.’” [PBS,2/11/13]
Alan Simpson: Obama’s Criticism Of Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan Was “Poisoning The Well.” According to USA Today, “The co-chair of President Obama’s deficit commission says Obama’s partisanship is making it harder to forge a deal on reducing the nation’s massive public debt. […][Alan] Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, responded in part to [an] Obama comment of the plan put forth by Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee […] Simpson said, ‘It may be fair in his line of politics, but it’s sure poisoning the well.’” [USA Today, 6/15/11]
Senator Lindsey Graham: If Democrats Use Reconciliation To Pass Affordable Care Act, It’s “Going To Poison The Well For Anything Else They Would Like To Achieve For This Year Or Thereafter.” According to USA Today, “‘If they do this, it’s going to poison the well for anything else they would like to achieve for this year or thereafter,’ [Senator Lindsey] Graham said. He called reconciliation a ‘trick’ and ‘a sleazy process.’” [USA Today,3/14/10]
Sen. Bob Corker: Democratic Efforts To Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell “Poisons The Well” On The START Treaty With Russia. According to the San Jose Mercury News, “Vexed and cornered, Republican opponents of the advancing effort to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military pulled out a final card Friday, suggesting that the future of an arms treaty with Russia was endangered by Democratic efforts to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” at the end of the lame-duck session. ‘It poisons the well,’ said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on the floor of the Senate during debate on the New START treaty. Coker said he did not think ‘the future of the START treaty over the next several days is going to be successful’ if Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the majority leader, continued with his plans to pursue the repeal, as well as an immigration bill.” [San Jose Mercury News via Nexis, 12/17/10]
Paul Ryan: Obama And Democrats Campaign Ads On Republican Attempts To Privatize Social Security “Poison The Well.” According to the Charleston Gazette, “Democrats, grasping for senior support to blunt Republican gains, are running ads around the country saying that Republicans would privatize the system. They’ve pounced on GOP candidates who have suggested ending Social Security or making it voluntary. Republicans in turn accuse Democrats of distorting the facts and scaremongering. The overheated rhetoric is hardly encouraging for those who would like to see Congress find ways for the retirement and disability system to survive in the coming decades. Last year, the system paid out $700 billion in benefits to more than 53 million people. But it faces a $5.3 trillion shortfall during the next 75 years as the nation ages and fewer workers support more retirees. ‘It serves to poison the well,’ said Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the senior Republican on the House Budget Committee. He’s a favorite target of Democrats because of his proposal to give workers under 55 the option of investing part of their Social Security taxes in personal retirement accounts to be run by the Social Security Administration. ‘The problem for us is these things stick,’ he said of the attack ads. ‘If scaring seniors didn’t work, they probably wouldn’t do it.’” [Charleston Gazette via Nexis, 10/23/10]
John McCain: Obama And Democrats “Poisoned The Well In What They’ve Done And How They’ve Done It” On Health Care Reform. According to an editorial by Greg Kesich in the Portland Press Herald, “‘There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year,’ McCain told an Arizona radio station and anyone else who would listen last week. ‘They have poisoned the well in what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.’ […]Everyone agrees what happened: Health care reform, the biggest piece of social legislation in a generation was pushed through Congress without a single Republican vote. And both sides agree whose fault it is: the other party.” [Greg Kesich – Portland Press Herald, 3/31/10]
Jonah Goldberg, National Review Online Editor-At-Large, Opinion Headline: “Partisan Stimulus Poisoned The Well; A Year Ago Obama Showed The GOP What ‘Change’ Really Meant. Now He’s Paying For It.” [USA Today via Nexis, 2/2/10]