Ah, the debate about whether Republicans are deliberately trying to destroy the nation in order to win the next election, and/or whether it's okay for liberals to accuse them of the same. It's heating up today, with an exchange between Steve Benen and Matt Yglesias, Michael Gerson, and Benen again.
For the most part, I think Gerson's column is overblown and poorly argued, but I do think he has one thing right: conservatives are probably advocating the same policies they would advocate if a Republican was in the White House. Well, more or less. It certainly is true that between the beginning of the recession in late 2007 and the crisis in fall 2008, both the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress proposed little to combat it.
Moreoever, it's good for the nation if the opposition party, well, opposes. Perhaps the policies Barack Obama and the Democrats support are terrific; perhaps they aren't. Either way, it's good that the other party searches for reasons why those policies stink.
I also think it's all too easy to selectively remember the most partisan stuff the other side says to build a narrative of an opposition blinded by crazed hatred of the president. I don't know which one it was, but one of the conservative radio talk shows had a reel (for all I know they still play it) of vicious anti-Bush sentiments. Some of them may have been out of context...I don't know -- but it's not hard at all to believe that over eight years of a presidency, it wouldn't be hard to find a few dozen extreme anti-Bush quotes, and I'm sure the same reel will be just as easy to put together about Obama. These clips were meant to illustrate that Democrats were motivated by blind hatred of the president, but in fact they illustrate little other than that it's a very large nation, microphones are on all the time, and people don't allways express themselves very well.
So, overall, I think Democratic pols should pretty much avoid this line of argument.
Should Democrats bash Mitch McConnell for saying that his top goal is defeating the president? Sure. Should they take it as proof that Republicans will deliberately harm the nation in order to win in 2012? Of course not.
Regardless, the bottom line in politics is that questioning motives is always a bad idea. I'd stick with agreeing with those who note that people tend to believe what it's in their interests to believe, and leave it at that.
Now, at the same time, Democrats surely should be prepared for GOP opposition on everything. Republicans in Congress have clearly chosen a rejectionist strategy in which they oppose (almost) everything using every tool available, rather than trying to bargain for the best deal they can get. And (as Benen notes), there's no question at all here about a conspiracy; Republicans have been perfectly up front, if not always consistent, about advocating some policies and opposing others. Which again means that there's no need to go questioning anyone's motives, or their ultimate goals. Democrats should have no difficulty at all opposing GOP economic plans on their merits and on the nation's experience with them during the George W. Bush years.
(Sabotage -- does it make you think about Bugs Bunny, or Star Trek VI? I couldn't decide, so I figured I'd just go with the one-word header on this one. Feel free to pronounce it the Bugs way, though).