Tuesday, February 03, 2009


But apparently, according to the Huffington Post's Sam Stein, the Democrats do at least have a learning curve:

... The president will conduct interviews in the Oval Office with ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and FOX News on Tuesday afternoon, according to the official White House schedule. The sitdowns come at a delicate time for the president, with concern mounting in Democratic circles that much of the debate over the stimulus has been dominated by the GOP.

... in private, party officials have grown acutely frustrated that the Obama White House, Democratic National Committee and congressional Democrats have not mounted a more effective defense of the stimulus package as Republicans seek to tar it as a "spending bill."

Part of the problem seems to be purely administrative. The communications shops at many Democratic outlets are currently in transition stages, owing to new administrations or individuals taking over the institutions.

There have been "zero marching orders" to "push back on the negative, push the positive, or undercut Republicans," said one Democratic official. "I assume it's taking some time to organize internally too..."

Oh, the Democrats are in transition? What -- the Republican Party isn't? Did I just hallucinate that big election for RNC chair a few days ago?

And what transition are the Democrats in Congress undergoing? Don't we have the same Speaker of the House and Senate majority leader we had before the election? And most of the same members of Congress?

... But another aspect at play is, it seems, fortunate circumstance. The Obama administration knows it doesn't need a single Republican vote to pass the stimulus package -- save, perhaps, a few moderate Republican Senators to vote for cloture....

I think this is a problem that goes well beyond vote-counting -- I'm not a D.C. insider, but sitting out here in Blogtopia, I can't help thinking that most Democrats believe the GOP is irreversibly taking on water. Har har har! Look who the most popular Republicans are! Limpblob and Caribou Barbie! Har har har! They can't possibly compete with our insanely popular president!

And yet it's ridiculously easy -- still -- for the supposedly marginalized GOP to use the mainstream media set the terms of the debate. It's ridiculously easy for Republicans to sow fear about Democrats' plans, which weakens the already gelatinous spines of red-state and Blue Dog Democrats. Next thing you know, there's a filibuster threat -- and are we really sure it doesn't need to be taken seriously? Throw in, oh, an appointee scandal or two, and even if the president gets his bill, he's wounded -- he's losing political capital at the outset of a presidency in which he'll need a hell of a lot of it because he needs to do a lot of big things.

In other words, reports of the Republicans' death are greatly exaggerated.

And Democrats didn't see this coming? How many years have we been talking about the Republicans' skill at these media wars, and ability to guilt-trip mainstream journalists? This is one of the only things Republicans do well, but they do it very, very well. And Democrats weren't ready? Again?

I used to watch George W. Bush's what-me-worry? response to the slaughter in Iraq, from 2003 through 2006, and try to imagine how you could possibly screw up like that day after day after day and not think you needed to do something different. But I've come to conclude that what Bush was in terms of policy, Democrats are in terms of political infighting: they never learn. Or they learn slowly and reluctantly, and only after being burned by mistakes they could have recognized as mistakes before making them. And it's not clear that the lessons ever take.

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