Sunday, February 15, 2009

Article Of The Week

In his February 13 post, titled "End the Honeymoon," senior editor John B. Judis of The New REpublic attempts to explain "Why the left is to blame for the lackluster stimulus and bank bailout."

Judis understands the stimulus act will do more harm than good but recognizes "all in all, it wasn't as good as it could be. It's probably too small and too skewed toward tax cuts for upper-income people who won't necessarily spend them." He believes that Obama did not demand a bill which would provide more stimulus (and tilt less toward the privileged) primarily because "there is not a popular left movement that is agitating for him to go well beyond where he would even ideally like to go."

Apparently, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has come to realize that Obama's post-partisan impulse is not matched by the GOP. Jonathan Weisman reported on February 12 in The Wall Street Journal that in an interview with reporters

Mr. Emanuel owned up to one mistake: message. What he called the outside game slipped away from the White House last week, when the president and others stressed bipartisanship rather than job creation as they moved toward passing the measure. White House officials allowed an insatiable desire in Washington for bipartisanship to cloud the economic message a point coming clear in a study being conducted on what went wrong and what went right with the package, he said.

Judis notes the unfortunate description of the stimulus bill by one liberal group, Campaign for America's Future, as "a darn good first step" and the ad run by the labor group Americans United for Change (backed by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees), which thanked Senators Collins, Snowe, Nelson (of Nebraska) and Specter "for agreeing to back the stimulus bill that they had significantly weakened." He observes they, and others, "made the mistake that political groups often make subordinating their concern about issues to their support for the party and its leading politician."

There have been, of course, some voices on the left urging Obama to recognize the Repub Party as the forces of "just say no" and negotiate from the position of strength that his and his party's election, and his own impressive popularity, have afforded him. Judis cites Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman, who "blame(s) President Obama's belief that he can transcend the partisan divide- a belief that warped his economic strategy." Krugman points out when the President "finally introduced his economic plan he immediately began negotiating with himself, preemptively offering concessions to the GOP, which voted against the plan anyway."

Similarly, Newsweek's Michael Hirsh wrote on February 4 "Obama's desire to begin a "post-partisan" era may have backfired. In his eagerness to accommodate Republicans and listen to their ideas over the past week, he has allowed the GOP to turn the haggling over the stimulus package into a decidedly stale, Republican-style debate over pork, waste and overspending.

Judis neglects to mention the criticism of the President's strategy emanating from the blogging left, such as firedoglake's Jane Hamsher, balloon juice's John Cole, hullabaloo's digby, and open left's David Sirota. But he doesn't limit the blame to the activist left or excuse Obama himself, instead asking "what would have been the result if these groups had gone after Obama and Reid.... (and) the self-appointed centrists? They would have certainly incurred the wrath of the Obama administration."

If Judis is a little unfair for blaming the left for, as digby herself puts it, "not being shrill enough," his criticism is a useful counterweight to the mainstream media and the political class, which oozes contempt for the left precisely because the latter questions established beltway wisdom. And moving the political debate, though uncomfortable to the President and his chief of staff, may be just the tonic for a country coming off eight years of reactionary, failed leadership.

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