An article in today's NY Times brought to mind one of the funniest stories so far this month: the story of how the Washington press corps has totally missed the boat in its reporting of the passage of the Stimulus Bill.
To hear the Beltway version of the story, President Obama failed miserably because he was unable to get the GOP to contribute in any meaningful way to this most important legislation in a generation. Obama tried to make the legislation bipartisan: he visited the Republicans on the Hill, invited them to a cocktail party, had his people sit down with their people. Nothing worked. The Republicans were determined that the bill should reflect their "values" (tee-hee), or the nation's economy be damned.
To the Beltway press, this was a failure of Obama's leadership. A good example is this short item from Crooks and Liars, in which NY Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg completely misses the point. You could be excused for thinking it's an audition tape for "Clueless."
Meanwhile, outside of I-495, we poor schmucks are praying the Stimulus Bill works, and works fast. We're not interested in Republican "philosophy," and we're scratching our heads wondering why the Congressional Republicans, with so much at stake for this country, refused to make a positive contribution to the Bill (and folks, "More tax cuts!" is not a positive contribution). Did they take their cue from their lord and master, Limbaugh, who has declared more than once that he wants the Stimulus Bill to fail? Offer another explanation.
So who won the week? Let's see — Obama gets the Stimulus Bill he wants and Congressional Republicans look like small-minded idiots. Hmmm. This is a tough one.
Frank Rich wrote about this on Sunday, in a very readable column I recommend highly. Here's a piece:
Less than a month into Obama’s term, we don’t (and can’t) know how he’ll fare as president. The compromised stimulus package, while hardly garbage, may well be inadequate. Timothy Geithner’s uninspiring and opaque stab at a bank rescue is at best a place holder and at worst a rearrangement of the deck chairs on the TARP-Titanic, where he served as Hank Paulson’s first mate.I started this little essay with a title that suggests there may be thinking people left in the Republican Party. Where could they be?
But we do know this much. Just as in the presidential campaign, Obama has once again outwitted the punditocracy and the opposition. The same crowd that said he was a wimpy hope-monger who could never beat Hillary or get white votes was played for fools again.
We can rule out Washington. But look at this! It turns out that outside the Beltway, elected Republicans who are actually held accountable for solving problems — state governors — are embracing bipartisanship and the Stimulus Bill.
Leaderless after losing the White House, the [Republican] party is mostly defined by its Congressional wing, which flaunted its anti-spending ideology in opposing the stimulus package. That militancy drew the mockery of late-night television comics, but the praise of conservative talk-show stars and the party faithful.I love the smell of late-night television mockery in the morning!
In the states, meanwhile, many Republican governors are practicing a pragmatic — their Congressional counterparts would say less-principled — conservatism.
Governors, unlike members of Congress, have to balance their budgets each year. And that requires compromise with state legislators, including Democrats, as well as more openness to the occasional state tax increase and to deficit-spending from Washington.
But fear not. In the Republican party, the right hand never knows what the right hand is doing.