Monday, February 9, 2009

Moderate Muddle Heads

If there is any greater obstacle than reempowred Clintonites to “change we can believe in,” it is “bipartisanship.” That’s what enabled the free market theologians of the Republican Party to frame the debate on Obama’s woefully inadequate but urgently needed “stimulus package.” They will not have their way, but they have already done grave harm. With Obama’s help, they’ve put the muddle heads in the “middle” in charge.

The free marketeers’ views are ludicrous, of course. But at least they are guided by a principle, and they have the virtue of consistency. It is hard not to admire those benighted legislators, if only for their obstinacy. Had “progressive” Democrats been similarly uncompromising, they might have prevented some of the most egregious of Bush’s and Cheney’s crimes. But, of course, that is not the Democrats’ way.

Do the Republicans in the House and Senate believe their own drivel? To the extent they do, who can blame them? It’s not just watching Fox News or listening to Rush Limbaugh or having a crush on Sarah Palin that moronizes those who are already predisposed to be stupid. Throughout the entire Reagan-Clinton-Bush family era, free market theology has been in the air we breathe. It has become an article of faith for many Republican voters. Even the Clintonite-Wall Street crowd Obama restored to power was on board with similar views – until quite recently, when reality struck.

Thanks to the Republicans’ obstinacy and Obama’s “bipartisan” flexibility, it now seems that the “moderates” will get to call the shots. Thanks to them – thanks specifically to three Republican Senators, Pennsylvania windbag Arlen Specter and two Maineacs, Olympia Snow and Susan Collins – the Senate will finally pass something. What they will pass lacks the virtue of consistency or fidelity to principle. In fact, it’s plain stupid. It cuts the size of the stimulus, at a time when it should be increased; and its cuts are targeted to be maximally counter-productive. It reduces aid to states, increasing unemployment and diminishing services, and it provides tax credits for homebuyers in a way that will likely reinvigorate real estate speculation. This is where bipartisanship leads. The result is so bad that now even liberals who had been inclined to give Obama every benefit of the doubt are expressing outrage -- witness Paul Krugman’s column, this morning, in The New York Times.

Maybe it’s not too late for Obama’s bipartisan nonsense to stop. Maybe he will use his Elkhart, Indiana town meeting today or his prime time news conference tonight to change course. Obama must realize by now that a change is long past due. Even Larry Summers was up in arms yesterday, on George Stephanopoulos’ Sunday talk show, about the cut in funding for the states! On the other hand, maybe Obama is still too much in campaign mode not to continue making nice to Republican snakes in the grass in order to win the favor of the morons in the middle – not just the “undecided” voters who got his undivided attention before November 4, but now their legislative counterparts, the ones on both sides of “the aisle” whom the media deem “moderate.”

The next few days will tell.

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