Obama's desire to begin a "post-partisan" era may have backfired. In his eagerness to accommodate Republicans and listen to their ideas over the past week, he has allowed the GOP to turn the haggling over the stimulus package into a decidedly stale, Republican-style debate over pork, waste and overspending. This makes very little economic sense when you are in a major recession that only gets worse day by day. Yes, there are still some very legitimate issues with a bill that's supposed to be "temporary" and "targeted"—among them, large increases in permanent entitlement spending, and a paucity of tax cuts that will prompt immediate spending. Even so, Obama has allowed Congress to grow embroiled in nitpicking over efficiency when the central debate should be about whether the package is big enough.Impression seconded by Nate Silver:
with the important caveat that there are many more chapters to be written in this saga -- the final bill is likely to come out looking closer to what the Greg Mankiw's of the world might have advocated for and less the Paul Krugman's.I'm a rather nervous and pessimistic sort myself, but I also feel that we've learned by experience that Obama is a master of timing, and strategy, and rhetoric. My hope is that he's gamed out when to weigh in heavily on this debate, and that the stimulus will look far less Mankiwist that Nate Silver fears.
Perhaps it was inevitable that this would happen once the details of the bill became known and the Republicans began to pick over them like vultures. Perhaps the bill could have been better written. Still, in essentially passing off both narrative and literal control of the contents of the package to the Congressional Democrats, the Obama administration may have played it too cute by half. Obama is popular; Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid aren't. The trajectory of the bill might have been different if Obama had devoted a prime time speech toward selling it, with graphs and pie charts and the like. But there hasn't been a Big Obama Moment like that -- a show of force -- something that really resonated outside the Beltway. The closest Obama came, oddly enough, was during his inaugural address, but the references to the stimulus there were abstract, oblique.
On the other hand: Obama has never been President before, and I don't want to do this overwhelming-faith-in-one-man routine. But I've been watching for two years, and my trust has only grown.