Thomas Frank has a good piece today about my favorite topic, the difference between the public’s overwhelming support for the stimulus package and the punditry’s contention that the last three weeks have doomed the once-promising Obama administration:
It is always a disappointment to turn from forthright consideration of some subject — whether from the left or the right, a poet or a plumber — to the Beltway version, in which the only aspects of the issue that matter are the effects it will have on the fortunes of the two parties and the various men in power. Today, though, with the nation facing the deepest economic crisis in decades, there is something particularly perverse about the Washington way.
We are watching industries crumble, Wall Street firms disappear, unemployment spike, and unprecedented government intervention. And our designated opinion leaders want to know: Is Obama up this week? Is he down? And is his leadership style more like Bill Clinton’s, or Abraham Lincoln’s?
Above all else stands the burning question of bipartisanship. Whatever else the politicians might say they’re about, our news analysts know that this is the true object of the nation’s desire, the topic to which those slippery presidential spokesmen need always to be dragged back.
When last week’s passage of the gigantic stimulus package is judged in this light, only one verdict is possible: Obama failed to deliver. He talked big about reaching out to Republicans, and yet he received only three votes from them in the Senate, and none in the House. Yes, the bill passed, but what a disaster!
Right on cue here’s some punditizing complete with one of our favorite lines:
It would have been hard to predict, as the stimulus debate began, that President Obama would end up losing more Democratic votes than gaining Republican ones.
Republicans didn’t win the stimulus debate, but they managed to deflate Obama’s dream of bipartisan hand-holding, tarnish the stimulus as stuffed with lefty pork, and — to borrow a phrase from the inauguration — pick themselves up and dust themselves off.
“After the November elections the party was beat back and defenseless,” GOP strategist Ed Rollins told me. “I think this allows them to stay unified and will help rebuild their financial base. They at least have a pulse.”
Damn the opinion polls, full meme ahead!