Monday, February 09, 2009

Tilting At Windmills

It's fun to watch the Republicans gather up their skirts and try to stand in front of a force of nature:

Three months after their Election Day drubbing, Republican leaders see glimmers of rebirth in the party's liberation from an unpopular president, its selection of its first African American chairman and, most of all, its stand against a stimulus package that they are increasingly confident will provide little economic jolt but will pay off politically for those who oppose it.

After giving the package zero votes in the House, and 0with their counterparts in the Senate likely to provide in a crucial procedural vote today only the handful of votes needed to avoid a filibuster, Republicans are relishing the opportunity to make a big statement.  Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) suggested last week that the party is learning from the disruptive tactics of the Taliban, and the GOP these days does have the bravado of an insurgent band that has pulled together after a big defeat to carry off a quick, if not particularly damaging, raid on the powers that be.

Emphasis added.
First, I'm not sure comparing yourself to the people who assisted in killing 3,000 Americans on September 11 is one you really want to make, Pete. After all, by opposing the stimulus package, you are in effect telling many Americans, perhaps as many as millions, to drop dead.
Second, the ineffectuality of "small victories" only proves the point Obama is going to make in the coming days, that obstructionism is a party-centric tactic and that Republicans are more interested in the good of the party than in the good of the nation.
Which is fine. It's the Republicans' party and they can cry if they want to and if they are more interested in standing on principle as opposed to winning the occasional election, then let them join the Naderites and the Communists and the Libertarians in holding their conventions in a phone booth at Port Authority bus terminal.
Hell, the entire right wing will be able to fit in there soon, if Rush loses weight!
But let's take a look at the nuts and bolts of this tactic for a second, and see why precisely it's a doomed strategy:

Republicans are holding congressional Democrats responsible for the wasteful spending they say is in the stimulus package, even though most of the big-ticket items -- for renewable energy, health care and schools -- are ones that Obama wanted in the package to advance his long-term goals.

For a while, the president did not exactly resist this tack, leaving the impression that the bill is mainly a congressional creation, but he started to defend it more vigorously last week. It is a triangulation of sorts, with Republicans hoping to drive a wedge between congressional Democrats and Obama.

"The president has done a good job reaching out to Republicans, and he has said he wants to approach this crisis . . . on a bipartisan basis. That's good, and we're willing to work with him on that. But this bill is not the president's bipartisan plan,"  Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said yesterday on "Fox News Sunday."

Apparently, the Republicans have suddenly forgot the lessons of history.
When the economy "recovered" under Reagan's tax and spending "cuts", does anyone recall that the Democratically-controlled Congress actually cut Reagan's budget proposals by a total of $16 billion dollars over eight years?
Nope. They only recall that Reagan cut taxes and created an economy.
When the Republican Congress ran up the budget in the first six years of Bush II, does anyone remember that Congress created these massive deficits with their pork?
Nope. They only have this nebulous sense that somehow Bush's foray into Iraq was responsible for the enormous (to that time) budget deficits.
Somehow, the right-wing of the Republican party has worked out in its head that the American people have somehow begun to pay attention. And perhaps they have, but to the other guys, not to you. I'm curious to see how the Republicans believe they can somehow grab enough of a spotlight to make a case that relies on two things: One, the economy remains flatlined for two years and two, people won't blame Bush in the first place, the way they blamed Hoover even after FDR had a hard time restarting the economy during the Great Depression.
The irony in all this is, if the Republicans had listened to even their moderate members during the Bush years, they may have actually salvaged some of the argument they are trying to make, by making themselves seem as responsible budget hawks in a decade that will require loose, and I mean "loose" as in a drunk sailor on a dock full of hookers, spending.
We probably need that. The temptation to spend money for spending sake is great, even if the numbers are staggering, and we've seen that Democrats are as liable to contract trichinosis as Republicans.