Wednesday, February 04, 2009


With regard to the stimulus, I agree with Nate Silver's point about how different the outcome would have been if President Obama had given a prime-time speech, but I don't buy a couple of his other arguments: essentially passing off both narrative and literal control of the contents of the package to the Congressional Democrats, the Obama administration may have played it too cute by half. Obama is popular; Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid aren't. The trajectory of the bill might have been different if Obama had devoted a prime time speech toward selling it, with graphs and pie charts and the like. But there hasn't been a Big Obama Moment like that -- a show of force -- something that really resonated outside the Beltway....

Did Pelosi and Reid have narrative control of the package? Maybe that's how it seemed in the Beltway, but out here it appeared as if no Democrat owned this thing -- not Pelosi, not Reid, and Obama only to the extent that Republicans linked him to it (which was less than might have been expected). Out here it seemed as if only one side was talking about the damn thing. (I think Obama thought that the transition and inaugural were Iowa and this was New Hampshire, but this was Jeremiah Wright -- he urgently needed to make a speech.)

And then there's this, which I really don't agree with:

The upside is that Obama himself is likely to emerge from the whole affair relatively unscathed. This might count as a victory for the Republicans on K Street -- but less so on main street, which has not been sweating all the details, and will still see a very large bill passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the White House.

No, Nate -- this will hurt Obama. Republicans sure as hell aren't going to pass up an opportunity to hurt him. Now that they see he lacks Teflon, they're going to score a victory (the Washington Post story Silver cites suggests that the bill could be about $200 billion smaller and half tax cuts), and then they're going to rub it in: they're going to spread the meme that this was a huge public rejection of out-of-touch big-government liberal spending from out-of-touch big-government liberal spender Barack Obama, whose out-of-touch big-government liberal spending failed policies of the past stand in stark contrast to the popular forward-looking brilliant Reaganesque solutions of the rejuvenated GOP.

The media will lap it up.

Has this been nasty? Yes -- and the nastiness isn't going to stop anytime soon.

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