Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Do-Nothing Congress...

...or know-nothing President?

As Obama continues to pump his Jobs Act with speeches across the country, perhaps it's time to consider what the actual expectations were for this legislation. Fred Barnes offers up the theory that it's 1948, all over again:
In 1948, an unpopular President Truman called a phony joint session and offered up legislation he knew Republicans would block. Then he campaigned against them as the “do-nothing Congress.” And won.
I think there's a great deal of merit to this idea. Obama has to know--he really does--that his Jobs Act has zero chance of getting through even the Senate, as written. And he has to know--doesn't he?--that it will be painted as nothing more than another Stimulus measure, thus allowing the lack of results from the first Stimulus bill to enter the discussion.

And we already know that--despite his urgent pleas to pass this a bill now--he's put off addressing unemployment for nearly a year, more concerned with his healthcare mandate and getting in a round of golf now and again.

So, the idea that he's really got this great package and he really wants to get it through Congress seems far-fetched, at the very least. Barnes' explanation fits pretty well: it's all about the reelection campaign, nothing more.

On the other hand, it is a near-200 page bill. Reading through the mess, it's clear a great deal of effort went in to crafting it, to imagining--through a flawed vision of reality--how it might actually help create jobs. In Obama's perfect world, the legislation is exactly what he might want to happen. Ditto for the tax increases. In that regard, there's no political game-playing.

Maybe it's a combination of the two, a political calculation: it's what he wants, but he knows it won't pass and the fallout can work in his favor in 2012.

But it's a tragic miscalculation, I'm afraid. The history of the first Stimulus Bill still looms large; there's no avoiding the wrong-headed predictions by the admin that accompanied its passing. And there's Obama's own rhetoric from the months after that, about how things were picking up, improving, and the like. Now, the admin is knee-deep in a near-recession that it claimed would never happen. And it's apparent to all that the only solution it has on the table is more of the same nonsense that has already failed to work. The Republicans were right to not respond to his joint-session speech. Obama is digging a hole for himself, day after day, speech after speech. The Truman gambit won't work for him because he really doesn't understand that his goals are part of the problem, not the solution.

Cheers, all.

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