Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Today two people are dis-appointed (Daschle and Killefer), the Senate is debating the stimulus bill in very discordant terms, and I'm left -- I admit it -- disheartened, dispirited, disillusioned, disgruntled, discouraged, dismayed.
Surely at some point Obama knew the trouble his appointees had, before he actually nominated them. And whereas I think each of them indeed had impressive credentials and were -- problems aside -- excellent choices, there must have been people similarly ready for the job but less encumbered. Or is it that in Washington everybody is dirty, and it's just a matter of relative spoilage? Failure to pay unemployment tax for domestic employees hardly seems fatal compared to the Daschled doings, but the timing was unfortunate. Is the best one can say.
This stuff is bad, but what bothers me far more are the troubles of the "Recovery and Reinvestment Act," the stimulus package. During the transition period, I was under the impression -- because Obama said his team would be working with Congress to have a bill ready to sign on that fabled "Day One" -- that there'd be some sort of working group, inclusive, business-like, able, coming up with a sensible and smart plan capable of bipartisan support. Instead, what seems to have happened is that the House bill was produced nearly single-handedly by David Obey, Chair of Appropriations. I don't know a thing about him, really; but for whatever reason he saw fit to fill the bill with complexities and pet projects.
In a charged political climate -- or even in a level-headed one -- there will never be common ground in all matters: Republicans think tax cuts are the one and only solution for any problem, and Democrats want spending programs. Never mind that the tax cuts of Reagan, Bush, and Bush all led to economic calamity and that the Clinton tax hikes led to balanced budget and soaring economy. Some things will never change.
Still, it's my impression that the Obama team has been much more hands-off than it ought to have been. It's surprising and even shocking to me that there is so much chaff in the stimulus bills and so little consensus. To me, it speaks of hypomanagement.
Before my more oppositional readers (two among, what, ten?) get a four-hour problem and have to seek medical attention, let me say I think the Republican leaders and followers in Congress are a pathetic bunch of losers who see a chance to bring down Obama's approval numbers and will stop at nothing -- not even the collapse of the economy -- to achieve it. They push the same tired tax cuts with no basis for belief they'll work -- since they never have. Their delight in gumming up the works knows no bounds. It's not as if I think they deserve much credence.
But surely there was a way to have avoided the current stalemate. Or to have made the plan so clearly smart that the Republicans -- many of whom would vote against anything -- would simply look like idiots in opposition. With active leadership the bills could have been far more streamlined, comprehensible, and defensible. President Obama is heading to the airways tonight to drum up support. I hope he makes the case. Meanwhile, what I really hope is that behind the scenes he'll get in there and get dirty: it's less about accomodating the tired Republicans than it is about getting the Democrats to slim down and wise up.