Say this for Republicans: They aren't being ambiguous or coy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is perfectly clear: He promises the U.S. Senate will do whatever is necessary to make Barack Obama a one-term president. Translation: Sabotage programs that make Obama re-electable because voters deem him good for the country.
So, striving to lift the nation out of its miseries and reversing the nation's declining stature is not job No. 1 for the GOP.
Another Republican, Rep. Spencer Bachus, who takes over a U.S. House committee overseeing the financial industry, is as crude: "Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks." Serve, as in lemming, lapdog, lackey, flunky.
Other Republicans returning to the House majority have been quick to reassure their benefactors in business—they plan to weaken or abolish laws regulating environmental pollution, health care insurance and Wall Street gambits, the public be damned.
The Republican chair of an environmental subcommittee piously waves off human intervention in global warming as futile: Biblical prophesy governs the end of the world.
Some tea party Republican congressional freshmen are flirting with a constitutional amendment giving states the power to veto federal legislation they dislike.
Some Republicans who rode into office on the backs and naïveté of tea party greenhorns have already betrayed supporters. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has discovered that congressional newcomers who campaigned against Washington lobbyists are hiring them for their staffs and lining up for lobbyists' handouts at fundraisers. That sellout didn't take long.
President Obama can counteract this politically petty, self-serving GOP agenda with the precious little time he has to act boldly.
To demonstrate he's working for the nation, he should announce a mammoth program—on the scale of President Eisenhower's decision to build the interstate highway system—to repair and modernize America's bridges, roads, waterworks, waste disposal, railroads, energy systems, dams and other infrastructure features.
Several trillion dollars over several years would be needed, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gives U.S. systems a humiliating average grade of D. If that were a student school grade, most parents wouldn't tolerate it, the society points out.
Such a national works program would create millions of jobs for the unemployed, demand manufacture of new machinery and materials, stir new revenues for local, state and federal governments, revive consumer spending and ultimately replace damaged and failing public systems with modern facilities befitting an industrial giant.
Let the GOP think small. Obama can think big.