Call us a cynical bunch if you must, but the biggest question most hardcore liberal Democrats have had about Barack Obama’s very public love affair with bipartisanship has been the following: how will he respond when it finally bites him in the ass? And at least in the case of his economic stimulus package, his ass is already starting to look a little red.
There’s no denying that Obama tried; his initial stimulus package seemed designed as much to placate Republicans, as to please Democrats. His hope seemed to be that he could buy a little right wing love by putting way too much of the proposal’s spending into (relatively ineffective as stimulus) tax cuts, instead of public spending.
But congressional Republicans are having none of it. They may not have much actual power left, but that doesn’t seem to have put them in a mood to compromise. Either send up a pure George W. Bush-style tax cut package, they insist, or they’ll vote against the bill.
The major media, speaking right on cue, is spinning this as a test of Obama’s commitment to bipartisanship. I suppose they think that makes for a better story than the truth of Republican obstructionism. To these media “elites” the question now is whether Obama will be a good little post partisan president by giving GOP representatives everything they want, or an evil partisan politician (because he stands by his own principles as well as what might actually work).
Yeah, that’s the ticket. Let’s extend and even expand Bush’s tax giveaways to the rich. I mean, that’s worked out real well for us so far, hasn’t it?
There’s no mystery about what’s going on here, of course. The GOP smells blood. What Obama intended as an extended hand they took as evidence of a weak spine: they’re starting to think — or at least to hope — they can push him around, at least a little. For what it’s worth, I strongly suspect they’re wrong. Underestimating Barack Obama’s political skill has generally proven to be a mistake. But Obama’s the only person who can prove it, and the way he can prove it, of course, is by pushing a strong stimulus package, reflecting Democratic Party values, through Congress.
The message would be unmistakable: if Republicans want to participate in the formation of future legislation in good faith, his door is open. But pure obstructionism will not be tolerated.
And all he has to do is to say the word. As he himself said, he won the election. And you can forget about the filibuster. There’s no way the GOP would use it to kill the stimulus bill. If they did, they would own the resulting economic carnage lock, stock and barrel, and they know it.
Obama’s path seems clear enough. The time has come for the kick ass part of bipartisanship.
Mrs. G just came in and gave me my tag line, bless her heart:
"He's givin' the Repugs their shot. If they don't go for it, fuck 'em."