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Worst Enemy

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Obama: The Honorable Senator From Kentucky
Before he moved into the White House, the only person out there who really fit the worst enemy bill was Obama's onetime Senate opponent in Illinois, Alan Keyes, who tried smearing the professorial candidate as a "hard-core, academic Marxist." Writing in The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote that "I often had to suppress the rather uncharitable urge to either taunt him or wring his neck." Now, after three years of dealing with recalcitrant Republicans in Congress, the list of Obama's "enemies" is far easier to populate. And top of that list: Senate minority leader (and sea-turtle impersonator) Mitch McConnell. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, referring to his Republican colleagues, told the Times, "Their goal is to slow down activity, to stop legislation from passing in the belief that this will embolden conservatives in the next election and will deny the president a record of accomplishment. Senator McConnell is their inspiration, their enforcer and their enabler." House Speaker John Boehner may have made more headlines, but it's McConnell who has quietly stymied the Obama agenda, making healthy use of the filibuster and a firmly controlled GOP minority. While the president and even Boehner have spoken about the need for bipartisanship, McConnell has been explicit in his aims. "We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off these proposals," he told the Atlantic's Joshua Green in early 2011, referring to, it seems, all Senate business. “Because we thought — correctly, I think — that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.” Obama's inability to "evolve into a post-partisan leader," Green says, is entirely on McConnell's shoulders, who has done more than probably any sitting Republican congressman to undercut the president's signature health-care overhaul. "The fact that Obama's health-care bill did not pass by the dates he kept putting on it was not an accident," Democratic Senator Michael Bennet told Green. "McConnell knew the places to go, around the tank, and loosen a lug bolt here, pour sand in a hydraulic receptacle there, and slow the whole thing down."

Romney: Rick Perry?
Back when both men were governors and Romney chaired the Republican Governors Association — the group Perry chaired until earlier this year — it seems Mr. Massachusetts "stole" one of Mr. Texas's chief political consultants. "I think that started the downhill decline in the relationship between them," a Texas Republican told the paper. When Perry's Boy Scout manifesto On My Honor came out in 2008, he singled out Romney, a former Scout himself, for bowing to liberal-minded activists and banning any official participation from the group. "In the absence of an explanation," Perry writes, "it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the decision was made as a reaction to the protests of gay activist groups to the Supreme Court's decision affirming Scouting's First Amendment rights.” Also in 2008, as Romney strove for the Republican nomination, Perry endorsed his opponent and then front-runner Rudy Giuliani, a snub Romney has never forgotten, according to several people who spoke to the Times. As for Romney, if his tensely cordial relationship with Perry is the height of his dislike, he may one day become the Most Boring President Ever.


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