Thursday, February 12, 2009

When Push Comes to Shove, What's Bi-Partisanship?

It's Anh "Joseph" Cao, and not Judd Gregg.

More on Cao later, but as for Gregg, he is giving Obama even more political cover for when that day comes when Obama simply has to shrug his shoulders, say that he sincerely tried, and move forward on his agenda without the GOP.

Here's how I see it: Obama is faced with probably one of the most difficult environments for starting out as President in my lifetime. He has made some blunders along the way; but he acknowledges them and takes responsibility for them. Score one for Obama in the court of public opinion.

Obama reaches across the aisle to try to work with the GOP in crafting some kind of path out of this current fiscal mess he inherited from a GOP administration that spent and borrowed like a drunken sailor. And the response from the GOP? Playground pettiness. It comes across like this: (1) Obama invites the GOP to share ideas and participate in the debates, and they do. (2) The debate produces legislation that represents a willingness on the part of the Obama administration to compromise. (3) The GOP gets all pissy and partisan because it didn't get everything it wanted and seeks to snub the President by voting against him to a person. (4) Obama stays cool, stays respectful, and stands above them, but forges ahead in spite of them. Result: The GOPers in Congress are exposed for the empty and obstructionist partisan shills that they are while the country suffers. Score another one for Obama in the court of public opinion.

And the icing on the cake: Obama welcomes Republican Senator Judd Gregg as a member of his Cabinet, indicating a willingness on Obama's part to accept that Gregg is who he is, that he will bring in different ideas, and that Obama will listen to him without the expectation that Gregg will compromise his integrity to carry Obama's water. And what does Gregg do? He realizes that he's the one that can't work with Obama, even though he readily supported the fiscal orgy that came with the Bush Administration, while Obama can claim that he was perfectly willing to work with a supposedly fiscal conservative like Gregg. Score one hundred for Obama in the court of public opinion.

You want to know what I see? I see this: SCORE: Obama 102 - GOP 0

I see Obama trying hard to be everyone's President, even to the point of alienating many in his own party, only to have that effort rejected by the GOP for what clearly seems to be purely partisan reasons.

And I say this as someone who has the jitters about the fiscal policy of the Obama administration and who tends to lean against the stimulus legislation and TARP2 on the principle of budgetary sanity. As much as I tend to oppose this direction of the Obama administration, (and as much as this aligns me with the GOP's opposition on this front, too) I can't help but think that I am sharing the stage with a bunch of politicians whose sole motivation seems to be to inflict partisan wounds on Obama instead of engaging the issues respectfully with the President. We seem to be arriving at the same position for very different reasons and with a very different attitude behind our reasons.

Well, I have some news from the GOP: the sorties aren't working. And the more that time passes in this vein, the more Obama comes out of this process looking truly Presidential while the GOP comes out of it looking petty and pathetic and puny.


Eric said...

Bi-partisanship is a crock, and it was one of the major ingredients in the miserable failure known as the Bush Presidency's domestic policy. Medicare Rx, The Farm Bill (largest expansion of farm subsidies in history), No Child Left Behind, and TARP I... those were all bipartisan measures, as was the head-in-the-sand "no loan applicant left behind" attitude that led to the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Ponzi Scheme (although to his credit, Bush did try to do something about that one, but failed).

The sooner we can cut the kumbayah BS and admit that we are facing a war of ideologies, the better. Judd Gregg probably got caught up in all the ridiculous hopey mcchange rhetoric. He shouldn't have.

Obama's plan might help the economy over the short term but is going to saddle us with inflation the likes of which this country has never seen. The inflation will take the place of the tax hikes that Obama was too much of a pansy to call for, and we'll all pay the price, and the price will likely be as bad or worse than the hardships we were trying to avoid in the first place. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

The Republicans are right to stay as far away from this 'solution' as they possibly can. Just because they helped create this problem doesn't mean they are obligated to support a fool's plan to make it worse.

Look, even you admit it isn't a good idea. I know you think their motivation is to sling mud at Obama, but would you consider that just maybe most-if-not-all Republican congressmen don't think this plan is likely to work for the exact same reasons you don't, and that for many red-state Republican Congressmen, supporting this plan would be career-ender? If that's the case, then what you are actually advocating is for them to just go along with a plan they don't believe in, one that could end their carreer, just so Obama can look good. Where is the sense in that?

Huck said...

No, Eric, I am not advocating for them to just go along with a plan they don't believe in (although the $350 billion in tax cuts included in the plan is the BIGGEST tax cut in this country's history). It's not the opposition to the stimulus that I have a problem with, it's the way in which this opposition is expressed and the result that this form of expression has in terms of respect and civility. Perhaps you don't think there's a problem with the mud-slinging and ideological warfare mentality that is driving the GOP's behavior, but the example it sets is not one of any kind of constructive disagreement based on principle. It reinforces the kind of "I'm right and you're a piece of crap and shut-your-pie-hole" approach to problem-solving. It's anti-intellectual. It's uncivil. It's disrespectful. It's spiteful. It's an attitude whose ONLY end result is to have us don red armband and blue armbands to publicly declare our ideological team and then walk around sneering and jeering at the other team in every circumstance and in every chance encounter. It's the Rush Limbaugh / Kieth Olbermann style of civil dialogue. It's degenerative and "disloyal" oppositional politics, not constructive and "loyal" oppositional politics. And the GOP has declared themselves all out committed to it. That's the difference. Part of my point was that if I can share a position with the GOP but get repulsed by the bald-faced and ugly partisan expression of ownership of this position, where's the incentive for me to ever look beyond ugly partisanship. And this goes for both sides. Let me give some examples: (1) Pro-life conservatives who equate as a matter of course voting Democrat with voting murder damage their cause with pro-life Democrats. (2) Spiteful conservatives who claim that any white liberal Democrat who voted for Obama did so only because of Obama's skin-color and a sense of white guilt damage their claim to represent color-blindness and reinforce liberal stereotypes of conservative racism. (3) Christian conservatives who think that liberal opposition -- even if those liberals are also committed Christians -- to hanging the ten commandments in courthouses is motivated purely by a partisan hatred of Christians and exemplifies an inherently partisan-rooted persecution of Christians, irrevocably divides people of faith simply because of party labels. These are all things that I've been subject to, and things that I know you've seen me be subjected to over at RWN, that are encouraged and stoked by a certain way of exemplifying opposition that is of a piece, I think, with how the GOP is attacking the stimulus.

Eric said...

Huck, while I agree with you that the rhetoric could be more respectful (on both sides... it's not like the Huffpo peanut gallery is any kinder to the opposition the people over at RWN), I'm still not sure that there is ANY way Congressional Republicans could make a unified and principaled stand against the stimulus package without you taking it as mean-spirited partisanship.

Read the letter than Senator Gregg released yesterday, it was as respectful as it could possibly be. He thought he could work with the Obama team, but upon arriving realized it would require him to agree to go along with things he was fundamentally opposed to. He took responsibility for the situation and admitted that it spoke more unfavorably about himself than it did about Obama. How is that mean-spirited?

Now, you can certainly argue that when he was a Senator under the GOP majority, Gregg abandoned the principals he now claims to hold dear. But the way to remedy that is not to continue to neglect those principals, but instead to recommit himself to their defense. I certaily find it alarming that it takes a $3 Trillion potpourri of stupidity in order to get Republicans to find their principals, but I'm not going to bemoan the fact that they are finally remembering that they have some, even if it comes off as partisan.

Eric said...

Also, one last thing: You say the GOP's partisanship and obstructionism is hurting them. I'm not so sure I agree. While Obama himself seems to be doing OK, the next big opportunity for Republicans is the 2010 mid-term elections, and they seem to be making gains on the Democrats in that context:

Simulacre said...

(although the $350 billion in tax cuts included in the plan is the BIGGEST tax cut in this country's history)

where's the tax cut?

I only see welfare:

Screw bipartisanship. catering to Democrats and their leftist 'compassionate' ideology is what has gotten us where we are today: flat broke with a growing dole.

Life isn't fair and it can never be made fair by bringing down those who produce wealth to the level of the lowest common denominators in society. TANSTAAFL

Huck said...

on both sides... it's not like the Huffpo peanut gallery is any kinder to the opposition the people over at RWN


I'm still not sure that there is ANY way Congressional Republicans could make a unified and principaled stand against the stimulus package without you taking it as mean-spirited partisanship.

That's not true. If Republicans were principled, then they would not agree to negotiate with Democrats, knowing that such negotiations imply compromise. I see bad faith and mean-spirited partisanship when Obama invites Republican Congresspeople to participate in the debate, when Obama and the Democrats actually make concessions to the GOP through this negotiation, and to have the GOP in the end and to a person piss on the compromise as "porkulus." If being "principled" means not accepting any kind of compromise with the Democrats, then being "principled" should mean refusing to negotiate with the Democrats from the start. It seems to me that the Republicans accepted Obama's overtures without ANY intention of accepting the final compromise product and that they did so out of a purely partisan effort to try to spin the narrative of the whole effort. Would you call that strategy principled? I don't. Although I hope Obama doesn't go down this path, and I don't think he will, I have to say that I wouldn't blame the man for completely cutting the GOP out of the picture. The obstructionist game is a losing proposition for America.

With regard to Judd Gregg. His formal letter was, indeed, conciliatory, as all of those things usually go; but it's the backdoor sniping, such as the whole canard about the Census Bureau being yanked from Commerce's purview, and other things that Gregg floated that rankle. Furthermore, to make the claim that Gregg didn't know what he was getting into is truly and offensively disingenuous. Anyone not living under a rock, much less a sitting senator, should have had a very clear idea of what Obama was about. And regardless of how conciliatory Gregg is, any astute politico had to know how this would be spun by his own side.

Simulacre - Where's the tax cut? You've got to be kidding me, right? This stimulus has always been about a combination of tax cuts and additional spending. If you don't see the tax cuts in this bill, you are being wilfully blind. Read this:

Simulacre said...

show it to me in the bill...don't quote some worthless op-ed in yahoo news filled with 'could, mays and mights.'

Simulacre said...

also, tell me how much good the extra 13 dollars they let me keep from my paycheck is going to help me when inflation goes up 5 to 10 percent?

Also, how how does that $13 help when the Bush tax cuts expire?

Huck said...

Look, simulacre, you and I both know that these things are in the bill. Everyone recognizes them. No one disputes them. So, if you want to play the "doubting Thomas" game, fine. But you're coming across as stubborn and obtuse. And regardless of what you think about the kinds of tax cuts that are in this stimulus package, or how far they go or don't go, or how big they are, or deflecting onto other topics like the Bush tax cuts, the fact remains that this stimulus includes significant tax cuts. Frankly, I think tax cuts (the Bush tax cuts included)AND new spending without regard for balanced budgets and which lead to an increase in the federal debt has an irresponsibility about it. But there's no question that this current stimulus package includes hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Be a partisan crank about the stimulus if you must, but at least be an honest one.