Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Come To Bed, Honey, You Did What You Could

I admit it, I'm slow. I'm sure everyone else figured out long ago the bind involved in getting President Obama's economic stimulus bill through Congress. It doesn't really matter if the bill is any good or not; if it fails to pass, Obama's credibility will take a hit, and the Republican media (by which I mean the corporate media) will swoop in like vultures to feed on his eyes while he is still alive.

They're already hovering. I, even I, allowed myself to have some small hope when Obama told Republican lawmakers that this bill was going to go his way and not theirs, because "I won", and that they should listen less to Rush Limbaugh. Maybe he wasn't going to be as 'bipartisan' as he'd promised, and that would be no great loss since the kind of bipartisanship he was talking (and the kind the Republican media want) is simply moving further to the right.

I don't believe Obama's program is fatally flawed, just timid. He conceded way too much to the Republicans in the way of tax cuts, not to mention removing contraception from the bill under right-wing pressure -- but even if it were a disaster, Obama's partisans would be yammering that it has to go through, and now. To delay, even to improve the bill substantially, would be a sign of weakness. So We've Got To Do Something, Right Now. And that is a sign of trouble right there, because in purely strategic terms they'd be right: that's how politics works. That's how it worked in 2001, too: panic the sheep and drive them in the direction you want.

Obama doesn't have four years to succeed, he really only has two, until the midterm elections in 2010. That's what hamstrung Bill Clinton in 1994, though it was his own fault as a Reagan Democrat, pushing through an unpopular measure like NAFTA. The voters reacted by giving Congress to the Republicans, who then began planning a coup against Clinton. First they tried to shut down the entire Federal government, which didn't work and didn't make the Republican Party any more popular, then they impeached Clinton for his affair with a White House intern, which also didn't work.

As FAIR pointed out, the Republican media are spinning the fact that no Republicans voted for the stimulus bill in the House as a failure of Obama's "bipartisanship," not of the Republicans'. Obama should stop trying to triangulate his base, impose some limits on his deeply rooted craving to appease the right, and set his own agenda instead of letting others set it for him. I might not like him any better, but at least it would be possible to know what he's trying to do, and go from there.