Saturday :: Feb 7, 2009

They Blew It


by Steve

Paradox, as usual, has done a great job summing up what I and perhaps others feel about how the Obama administration has screwed up coming out of the blocks. His supporters, to be expected, easily dismiss all critiques as being premature whining from Clinton supporters.

Sure, that's all it is. But please, before I move on, let me say a few things one more time.

Initial Strategy: The administration's initial strategy of letting the House Democrats run wild with the first draft of the recovery plan was flat-out lunacy, a mistake made by people who should have paid attention what happens when you let House Democrats sandbag your ass back in 1993. Obama had a 2-4 day window right after the inauguration, where he should have had the House leadership sit around the table with him for a "come to Jesus" meeting on what he wanted from the House. Yes, what he wanted, and had a right to insist on what came from the House. When you rack up 350 electoral votes, you earn the right to tell your own party what the game plan is. You tell David Obey "I don't want to see no damn Christmas tree full of unrelated spending, no wet dreams from the last 14 years. I simply want to see assistance to the states, temporary health care and other assistance for those who have lost their jobs, some assistance for threatened homeowners, no more than 10-15% in tax cuts, and the rest in direct infrastructure spending. If you send me anything else, I will come out against it and triangulate against both parties. I didn't come here to have you send a bloated package full of right wing talking points over to the Senate."

His second huge mistake was in even trying to get House GOP votes from a caucus that doesn't have any moderates left in it. Due to the Democratic successes in the last 2 elections, the only members left in the GOP caucus are from red districts. Why did Team Obama think that any of these folks would ever vote for the initial package from the House? The White House, and yes, that's you Rahm, were stupid to even care about House GOP votes. You don't need them, and they don't want and can't afford to get close to you between now and 2010 on tax and spending issues, so ignore and marginalize them. Instead, Team Obama empowered them and David Obey made it too easy. Forget about the House Republicans and push them into a corner.

Senate strategy: Yes, you need 60 votes to get a package past the Budget Act rules, but that doesn't mean you sell out the states and send a package to conference that fails to meet your own goals. The package that Obama let Senate "moderates" develop has far too much in tax cuts and far too little in infrastructure spending. Again, he spent too much time mistakenly appealing for a bipartisanhip that isn't there anymore. Although Obama has about 58 Democratic and independent votes, he only has probably 54 or so because of red-state Democrats. Therefore, he needs about 5-7 GOP senators to eventually come across. The strategic question is when to apply pressure for those votes? Should he get something to conference that is fundamentally flawed on too much tax cutting and too little in infrastructure stimulus, hoping to fix it later and then apply maximum pressure on those 5-7 GOP senators from purple or blue states and those who may be retiring in 2010? Or should he have forced that pressure now and gotten a good bill to conference to force his own House Democrats to go along?

Since Obama seems to be signaling that he goes along with this flawed bill, he is now supporting a stimulus bill that economists from all sides say will not be enough. By making the first mistake with the House, and now compounding it by botching his handling of the Senate, he has set in motion a process that will yield a flawed and inadequate package, just for the sake of getting something through without having to spoil his bipartisan daydream and go negative on those 5-7 GOP senators, whom he should have been willing to pound in their own states by using their own governors against them. Where was the harm in going after his critics and other AWOL Republicans like Kit Bond, Lindsey Graham, George Voinovich, and Mel Martinez by name, asking them "why is spending on your roads, schools, and bridges 'pork'? Is your state so well off that you don't need any of this help?" All they needed to do was look at a 2008 and 2010 electoral map, find the Republican senators who could be hurt like this, and then tell them to "get on board now or get on board after I spank your asses back home. It's your choice."

(There is one gimmick they could employ to make their chances easier, but they'd have to be smart and ruthless, which Reid and Obama are not.)

I hope I'm wrong on all this, and yes, the Obama true believers can now pound me without merit once again for being all sour grapes about Hillary's loss. But the truth is that Team Obama had a flawed strategy coming in, still has one, and is soon to be saddled with a "recovery package" that is inadequate and represents a grand failure in terms of effective stimulus spending. And they have no one but themselves to blame.

Steve :: 10:20 AM :: Comments (44) :: Digg It!