Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Partisan Games Of Credit & Blame

Thanks to the party line (i.e. Partisan) nature of Congress's votes on the economic stimulus package, the plan to turn around the worst financial crisis facing the country in more than 50 years, now carries not only enormous fiscal stakes but also political stakes that are nearly as large. Not one Republican in Congress voted for the bill. President Obama tried to woo some of them but, the bottom line is... they were elected by people who have no intention of siding with President Obama on anything and that isn't going to change anytime soon.

President Obama's advisers are betting that the historic legislation he signs today will bear fruit quickly and they plan to do everything they can to highlight evidence of it creating the jobs he has promised. That public relations effort kicks off some time today as a two-day swing through the West begins. But, the Republican Party has made its own bet: That the stimulus package the Democrats rushed through Congress will be deemed a failure by the time the 2010 elections arrive, leading voters to rebuke President Obama and reward the GOP with much-needed victories. (Whining and wishful thinking on their part. I hope the American people see just who is Bi-partisan and who is not.)

Whatever side proves to be right, the sharp, partisan lines over the stimulus bill make it plain that both parties intend to exact a political cost over last week's votes... and, their leaders are looking to history for inspiration as they consider how to maneuver in the weeks and months ahead.

The Democratic guide will be Franklin D. Roosevelt, who even with unemployment still above 20%, led House Democrats to pick up 9 seats in the 1934 mid-term elections. Senate majority whip Richard J. Durbin (Democrat-Illinois) carries with him a book called "Traitor To His Class," a new biography of how FDR built the Democratic domination that endured for three decades.

But, the House minority whip Eric Cantor (Republican-Virginia), who led the fight to deny President Obama every Republican vote for the plan, is studying Winston Churchill's role in leading the Tories in the late 1930s, a principled minority that was eventually catapulted into power over the Labor Party. He calls the stimulus bill "a stinker." (I could call him a few things but, I'm trying to be civil and objective here.)

If the economy turns around, President Obama could eventually benefit much as Bill Clinton did after pushing his economic recovery plan through Congress in 1993 with very little to no Republican support.

Though it was far smaller than President Obama's bill, Clinton's plan was nonetheless controversial at the time, requiring Vice-President Al Gore to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Republicans insisted then that the bill would be an albatross around Clinton's neck. And, they succeeded in using the controversial tax increases to help them sweep into power in the mid-term elections of 1994, when Newt Gingrich (Republican-Georgia) led a revolution of young and conservative House members. Remember the laughable "Contract With America"? Where is it and where are those clowns now? For that matter, has anyone seen Newt Gingrich lately? (I could've sworn I saw him with Elvis at the 7 Eleven last night.)

But, when the sluggish economy began to soar several years later, Clinton claimed full credit (as well he should have) and used Republican opposition to the legislation as fuel for his successful bid for re-election. Now, it is President Obama's turn and the political stakes, like the mammoth bill itself, are much larger. He has acknowledged that little else he does in the next four years will affect his legacy if jobs and prosperity have not returned.

President Obama told a crowd in Fort Myers, FL last week... "Now, look... I won't lie to you. If it turns out that a few years from now, people don't feel like the economy's turned around, we're still having problems, folks are still unemployed, and our health care system's not more efficient, then, you know, you guys won't applaud me the next time I come down here."

President Obama has never shied away from calling the stimulus package "my bill" while stumping for it around the country. With only three Republicans supporting the measure in Friday's votes, there is almost no political cover for him if it doesn't work.

And, Republicans have made it clear that they intend to try and shift the economic debate toward concern about the federal deficit. They are also preparing to use the ballooning deficit to renew their push for additional tax cuts. Groups including the Club for Growth (Growth of what? More economic downturns? Give me a break!) and GOP leaders such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich say such cuts would do more to improve the economy than the spending plan would. (The operative words were "former House Speaker".)

Gingrich said in an interview, "The Republicans' job is to say, here's a model we know is going to work. If they do that, they will be astonished at how good 2010 will be. Democrats have taken a huge gamble. I can't imagine them spending $780 billion without so many examples of waste and corruption. Big bureaucratic spending... it never works." This from the party that got the country in this mess. Then, what does work? Trickle down economics? Give the fat cats tax breaks and they'll create more jobs? Tried that... didn't work! Come again, Newt. Better yet, don't. In the words of my grandmother, go somewhere, sit down, and shut up!

These same Republicans rarely worried aloud about the deficit during the spending spree of George W. Bush's presidency, as Bush largely ignored the mounting red ink as he waged war in Iraq and battled terrorism. Many conservative Republicans, including Senator John McCain (Arizona), blamed last year's congressional and presidential losses on the lack of fiscal discipline shown by their party under Bush's leadership. (Hmmmmm!)

But, the massive stimulus plan has given Republicans a political opportunity to try to erase the memory of those years by convincing the country that they have found religion again when it comes to spending. (Don't make me laugh!)

Cantor says bluntly that President Obama and the Democrats have decided to "assume ownership of the era of the bailout." And, he predicted that voters will recoil at the prospect of huge, growing deficits and an increase in the size and role of the federal government in their lives. He said Saturday, "I think the 2010 elections certainly will be a test for the mandate of change that this administration was elected with. I do think that there will be a price to pay."

But, some Republicans worry that it could be their party paying that price. Senator Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania), one of the three Republicans who voted for the legislation, said the GOP risks becoming "the party of Hoover," echoing a warning that Vice-President Richard B. Cheney delivered last year during negotiations over the Bush administration's rescue of the auto industry.

After President Herbert Hoover left office in 1933, amid the economic rubble of The Great Depression, Specter noted... "Not until Eisenhower came up decades later, did a Republican win the presidency, and he was a war hero."

In the coming weeks, if the stimulus package works as Democrats have described, federal money flowing into state coffers may allow many governors to announce that fewer layoffs are necessary. Construction projects that were delayed could start up again, providing much-needed work for laid-off construction workers. Consumer confidence could rebound, sending people to the stores again.

President Obama will be poised to take credit for such successes and he will, regardless of whether they are a result of the legislation he passed or not. This is just the spoils going to the winner. It's the nature of the beast.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California) said shortly after the bill passed the House on Friday... "We stand as Democrats ready to be accountable to the American people for this legislation and for the results we predict it will bring."

Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, predicted just that kind of Democratic bragging in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal late last week... "If history is a guide, sometime late this year or early next year, the economy will rebound on its own. When that happens, Democrats will argue that their un-targeted, permanent spending actually revived the economy." (Like you guys wouldn't do the same thing!)

If Rove is right, Republicans could find themselves answering uncomfortable questions from their constituents about their no votes. In the meantime, much depends on which party succeeds in shaping public opinion about the effect of the legislation. The President's aides appeared yesterday on morning news programs to begin lowering expectations. Press secretary Robert Gibbs warned on CNN's "State of the Union" that it will take time before people see improvement in their lives.

Gibbs said, "I think it's safe to say that things have not yet bottomed out. They are probably going to get worse before they improve. But, this is a big step forward toward making that improvement and putting people back to work." For his part, Rove believes the 2010 elections could be a victory for the GOP. "The President won this legislative battle," he said in a Wall Street Journal column, "but at a high price -- fiscally and politically." It would have been an even higher price if he had not of fought aggressively for the passing of this bill and allowed our economy to slide even further down the toilet.


clnmike said...

It's unbelievable the mind set of the GOP you would think it's Bloods and Crips gang banging in DC.

They act like they didnt get us in this mess and want to use the same game plan that didnt work.

To this is intentional they are going to fight tooth and nail anything that comes across the table so they can set the stage for 2010 and that mean dragging the nation into the poor house there going to do it.

Toni said...

Keith,you're better than CNN!

Angie B. said...

I second that!

Grover Tha Playboy said...

Wow,you came strong with the knowledge on this one bruh!

Tate2 said...

The Rethuglicans are just poor losers that's all..They're going to do anything they can to put a black eye on the O-man's game.

Swaggie said...

Excellent Post Keith..You gave me a better perspective of just what is going on here.

Sunflower said...

You said it in another post and I guess it's true..The honeymoon is over for President Obama.

James Perkins said...

I think President Obama has got to stop expecting any bi-partisan support. He has reached out and he has seen that he has been rejected.
The American people have seen it..So now he should just be the President, get on that Bully pulpit and get it done..with them or without them..That's what George Bush did.

Vanessa said...

Good Post Keith and very analytical and informative. Parts were funny too (Seeing Newt Gingrich and Elvis at the 7-11...Classic...)

Simon Bastion said...

I'm with Toni...You are better than CNN Keith.lolololol..Great post!

Lisa said...

The Dems and the Repubs act like
gangbangers ...just like clnmike said..The welfare of the nation has
escaped them...This has become all about protecting turf. Same as on the street.

Halo said...

Considering the Republicans got the nation in this mess with all that de-regulation and shipping jobs overseas..You'd think they'd be going out of their way to show the country that they could be equal partners in the economy's
reconstruction...but noooooooooooooo!!!!!!

Captain Jack said...

As a small business owner myself, I am certainly hoping the stimulus package gives me some much needed tax releif and allows me to decrease some of my lingering debt.
I'm definitely rooting for it to be a sucess.

Political Sean said...

Way to go Keith...You did your homework on this one..!!!

Anonymous said...

All of you, keep right on...as Barack Obama and the Democratic party destroys free enterprise and leads this nation right on down the road to socialism..Just keep right on!!!

Jazzy said...

@Anonymous- And What's wrong with a little socialism?

Political Sean said...

@Anonymous- Relax...You'll be alright..When you get that Stimulus check, think of all the wood you can buy to make crosses to burn in someone's yard.lolololol.

Anonymous said...

Republicans are starting to make me sick with this high level of bitchassness, Their years of playing the bully and having people vote their crummy asses out of office have OBVIOUSLY not sunk in yet

LadyLee said...

The republicans are dead set against cooperating. Humph. And with that attitude, they are a BIG part of the problem.

Well written opinion piece, bruh.

Rich Fitzgerald said...

Looks like someone has been doing their homework. This is worthy of a top news site.

ShellyShell said...

As much as Obama wants this to be a bipartisanship administration it's just not going to be. He has bent over backwards asking them to act like the grown ass adults they claim to be. It's now time for him to just suck it up and move on! In 2012 their platform will be that Obama ran the country into the ground and he was like every other democrat etc... He asked them a few times to come and play and they refused so shyt in my book don't ask again!

By the way this post was excellent!

CurvyGurl ♥ said...

Great insight, Keith.

KELSO'S NUTS said...

This is superior work, Keith.

Even though you insert your views when you feel it's appropriate, your account of the American scene strikes me as fair and trustworthy and for my friends down here who read English, I'd strongly recommend your stuff to catch up on American politics from the perspective of a peer.

It is also very depressing to see Obama squandering the good will the rest of the world had for him day by day.

Politics is inevitably going to come down to "old men grinding axes," because politics is not about justice or fairness. It's a market mechanism by which good performance is supposed to be rewarded with more spoils and more accolades and bad performance is supposed to be punished by peaceful removal from office.

It's hardly a 1-for-1 correlation. Woe in the campaign to the official who does a great job under trying conditions and improves things SLIGHTLY. That might be a tremendous governing out-performance, but if times are still tough the incremental improvement counts for nothing.

Two unlucky losers stand out in my mind: David Dinkins, former mayor of New York, and George H W Bush. If things were "fair" Dinkins would have beaten Giuliani in the rematch and Bush, Senior, would have beaten Clinton and Perot.

Clinton ended up a decent upgrade on Bush, Sr. Giuliani was an epic disaster as mayor, a fact which was masked by his catching a national economic tailwind in 1997. He created and profited from social distortions and distrust among New Yorkers that hadn't been felt since the Draft Riots. New Yorkers had tended not to have the kinds of divisions that made other cities prone to inter-ethnic violence elsewhere. Eight years of Giuliani erased over a century of cooperation. It will be another 20 years I think until his damage is undone.

Obama might be a brilliant president but he could easily be an unlucky loser if the country hasn't felt substantial improvement across all social classes. The Republicans will stick him with the mess he inherited to be sure.

He's gotten off to a pretty good start politically and to my way of thinking a very shaky start governing. He may learn from his mistakes; he may not. If he doesn't, this could create a situation in which the best candidate for president might be a progressive Democrat who would be forced not to run because of the value to the Party of incumbency.

I don't care for Geithner nor Summers. It's criminal to make quarterly trillion dollar payments to only the five largest banks whose greed and laziness are the root cause of the economic crisis. I think of the name-brand economists, Krugman is the best socially, in terms of efficiency, immediate relief and long-term return to prosperity. A part of the Krugman philosophy I like is his blending of economic and foreign policy in which negotiated fair trade and open markets replace war as the tools of the nation-state.

With Obama fully-committed to war now, I frankly see his administration as practicing nothing less than "Reaganomics," and it will be bitterly funny to watch Republicans running AGAINST "Reaganomics" in four years.

Anonymous said...

Very informative. I'll take you over CNN anyday!


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