Republicans finally have company. They have been arguing that the president lacks focus, says one thing and does the other, and has resorted to hyper-partisan attacks that would have put Lee Atwater to shame. However, their lonely quest to debunk the Obama mystique finally seems to be ending. Help is on the way.
The mainstream media is getting in on the act, pointing out, among other things, the rank hypocrisy of a omnibus stimulus plan with 8,500 earmarks followed by a speech on earmark control. Rick Klein writes:
What’s remarkable about the carefully book-ended White House events — the private signing making 8,500 earmarks law, and the public statement saying that such earmarks will never again become law with such ease — is how old Washington it all looked.
And now Democrats are joining the fray — because they are afraid for their political lives. The Hill observes that Congressional Democrats are in essence agreeing with the widespread conservative criticism of the president:
Some Democrats have started to worry that voters don’t and won’t understand the link between economic revival and Obama’s huge agenda, which includes saving the banking industry, ending home foreclosures, reforming health care, and developing a national energy policy, among much else. … While lawmakers debate controversial proposals contained in the new president’s debut budget — cutting farm subsidies, raising taxes on charitable contributions, etc. — there is a growing sense that time is running out faster than expected.
Voters “don’t understand the link” because there isn’t one — or at least not in the way the president spins it. There is nothing in the monstrous array of nationalized health care, cap-and-trade, and tax hikes contained in the budget that is going to help the economy. But there is plenty there, when coupled with the incompetency festival at Treasury, to worry consumers, investors, and employers and worsen the recession. It is not too hard to figure out what’s going on here, as former Nevada Democratic Sen. Richard Bryan explained to The Hill:
Bryan described himself as an Obama supporter who derived “intellectual satisfaction” from the president’s health care, education, and climate proposals. But he questioned whether most people connected such complicated issues to the plunging values of their retirement accounts or to soaring unemployment. … Pervasive voter uncertainty means Obama needs to emphasize short-term measures to fix the economy, Bryan said. “If there’s not a sense that we’ve reached bottom and there’s a sense of uncertainty, I think the president’s support will erode fairly rapidly,” he added.
Well, that’s apparently what the country is from Obama’s perspective — a liberal petri dish to grow the New Deal II. But the economy is not a political science lab experiment for most elected leaders and certainly not for voters who simply want things to get better. So why doesn’t the administration listen to these worried Democrats, the Republicans (who are still offering bipartisan solutions), and the “soured” punditocracy which is increasingly frustrated with the president?
Several things are at work here. First, when you are on an ideological mission, facts do not mean all that much. And carping is dismissed as faintness of heart. Obama is a committed ultra-liberal and one with infinite faith in government’s ability to right all wrongs. So economic and political data, whether from the stock market or his fellow Democrats, has little impact. He wants to do all of this because he wants to do all of this — no matter what.
Second, he and the Democratic Left are unlikely to have this window of opportunity again anytime soon. Even aside from the likelihood that the economy will not sufficiently rebound by the Congressional elections to endear Democrats to the voters, we know that historically, the incumbent party is going to lose seats in the first mid-year election. So even if it makes Democrats more unpopular and worsens their 2010 prospects, Obama likely doesn’t care. He’s got a full four years before he faces the voters and if 20 or 30 or 40 House seats are the price to be paid for cap-and-trade and nationalized health care, so be it.
And finally, if you don’t have a clue how to fix the economy or are biased against free market and tax-cutting solutions which might help, what else are you going to do? Attack Rush Limbaugh and have a series of non-productive White House summits, I suppose. You need to fill up your time and divert the country’s attention while you are not fixing the economy.
We are heading for a collision here between a president bent on an unworkable agenda and Democrats frightened about their re-election prospects. Republicans, if they are smart, may figure out how to align themselves with the latter. Or perhaps, they’ll simply sit back and watch one-party liberal rule in all its glory.
The heavy lifting here in combating the extreme Obama agenda need no longer be a purely Republican task. Congressional Democrats who see the coming electoral train wreck and who may not share the president’s messianic vision of a remodeled American society can start helping out. And unless they do, they’ll be joining the growing ranks of the unemployed.