He failed on his bid to deliver bipartisanship because he forgot an essential rule of life: It takes two to tango. Republicans were simply not willing partners in this endeavor to keep the economy from going away and hiding in a cave for the next 10 years.
THEIR CONCEPT of bipartisanship doesn’t go much beyond: “You do what we want and we’ll call it bipartisan. We know best.”
Which might be admirable, or at least acceptable, if they did know best. They don’t. Au contraire, as French majors say.
The Republican Party has gone crazy, a state that can be defined as: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
That’s the Republicans. Their answer to the ongoing collapse of our economy—and the rest of the world’s economies, for that matter—is tax cuts.
Sen. John McCain who, but for the good sense of the American people would have been charged with cleaning up this mess, said of the $789 billion stimulus: “This is not a stimulus bill, it is a spending bill.” To which President Obama, not without some exasperation, answered: “Of course it’s a spending bill. That’s what a stimulus is. That’s the point.”
(One thing you have to say about McCain: when he says he doesn’t know much about economics, he really means it.)
BUT MCCAIN was subdued and rational compared to his fellow Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He did everything but hold his breath and turn blue.
“This bill stinks,” he said. “The process that’s led to this bill stinks. If this is the new way of doing business, if this is the change we all can believe in, America’s best days are behind her.”
(South Carolina has given our nation two things: the Civil War and Lindsey Graham. I still can’t decide which one is worse.)
Let me say this about tax cuts: if they were the cure-all that conservatives make them out to be, we’d be sitting pretty right now. And if deregulation, the other nostrum Republicans love so well, were the key to unlocking the power of the capitalistic system, we’d all be rich, or getting there. Kind of like we were during the Clinton administration.
Remember those days? Rocketing stock market. Plenty of jobs. Good pay. I would remind you that they were triggered by—are you ready for this?—a package of tax increases that balanced the budget and paved the way for the most prosperous six years we have known.
Not a single Republican voted for those tax increases. Not one. And, to add insult to injury, they campaigned on the tax issue and won the House in the next election, even as the nation enjoyed the fruits of that tax increase. Now it looks like they intend to try to do it again—sit on the sidelines and pray for failure.
IT’S BEEN said that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American voter and there’s some truth in that, but I don’t think it’s going to work this time.
In the first place, Obama isn’t asking for more taxes, he’s passing out money. This is a far easier sell than Clinton had.
In the second place, it really is possible to go broke underestimating the American voters’ intelligence. People know intuitively that high taxes aren’t the problem. Not having jobs or money or health care, those are the problems.
Mr. Obama is at least trying to do something about those things; the Republicans aren’t.
I think the lesson here is that it’s impossible to underestimate the intelligence of the Republican Party. Not to mention its sanity.
Don Kaul is a 2-time Pulitzer Prize-losing Washington correspondent who, by his own account, is right more than he’s wrong. firstname.lastname@example.org
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