I am somewhat in sympathy with Hilzoy, when she writes:
There are good reasons to try for bipartisan support regardless of how likely you think you are to succeed.
If you do succeed, then both parties have some ownership of the stimulus bill, neither will be as eager to politicize it, and it will be harder for either to use it to beat up the other. This is good. If you try hard, and publicly, to attract Republican support, but fail, then Republicans look like intransigent ideologues who would rather try to score political points than actually deal with the serious problems the country faces. You, by contrast, look reasonable: you tried to reach out, but your efforts were rejected.
The problem, though, is the collateral damage: the bruised and bloodied stimulus bill that limped out of the House yesterday. Given the shape the economy is in — thanks to eight years of you-know-what by you-know-who — the country can ill afford to water down the stimulus bill. And despite my slight sympathy for Hilzoy’s argument, I do regard the watering down as perfectly pointless.
In the sense that making a good-faith attempt at bipartisanship to show up the Republicans as intransigent ideologues could just as well have been done later. Nothing was gained by doing it now, right out of the starting gate. Obama would have lost nothing by deferring this three-dimensional chess exercise to later; the country would have benefited hugely, from a stronger, more focused stimulus bill.
Speaking of bipartisanship, it looks very much like Republicans have their own private definition of the term. To them, it seems to mean that there shall be two parties, and ne’er the twain shall cooperate (no matter how urgent the problems facing the country).
The House vote on the stimulus package — with not a single Republican voting to support it — does raise a couple of questions in my mind.
— What kind of idiots take orders from clowns like John Boehner and Eric Cantor?
Unless, of course, they’re all (including (Boehner and Cantor)) taking orders from Rush Limbaugh, who is now the effective leader of the Republican party, if only because there is no other leader in sight.
All the available evidence certainly points to Republicans having anointed Limbaugh as some like of malevolent Living Buddha (a shock-ya-muni, if you will).
Let’s start with Rep. Phil Gingrey. In what can only be described as an extremely foolish moment, he sniped at Limbaugh (and Hannity and Gingrich) on Tuesday:
“I think that our leadership, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are taking the right approach,” Gingrey said. “I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party. You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn’t be or wouldn’t be good leaders, they’re not in that position of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell.”
Such a storm of critical comments descended upon Gingrey’s office that Gingrey in short order produced two abject apologies in quick succession. First, a public apology via statement released by his office:
“Because of the high volume of phone calls and correspondence received by my office since the Politico article ran, I wanted to take a moment to speak directly to grassroots conservatives,” Gingrey said in a new statement released by his office. “Let me assure you, I am one of you.”
“I never told Rush to back off,” Gingrey continued. “I regret and apologize for the fact that my comments have offended and upset my fellow conservatives—that was not my intent…Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and other conservative giants are the voices of the conservative movement’s conscience.”
(Rush Limbaugh is a conservative giants who is the voice of the conservative movement’s conscience? I wonder how well that sits with the likes of Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol? But, of course, Gingrey will not be apologizing to them any time soon. Since they are not Living Buddhas.)
But when you have blasphemed the Living Buddha of the Republican party, especially such a vindictive one, indirect apology can hardly suffice. You have to personally prostrate yourself before the deity, and Gingrey was certainly equal to that. Making “a rare guest appearance on Limbaugh’s radio show” yesterday, Gingrey paid obeisance to Limbaugh as a “conservative giant” and apologized with abjectly sincere penitence:
Rush, thank you so much. I thank you for the opportunity, of course this is not exactly the way to I wanted to come on. … Mainly, I want to express to you and all your listeners my very sincere regret for those comments I made yesterday to Politico. … I clearly ended up putting my foot in my mouth on some of those comments. … I regret those stupid comments.
(Unfortunately, I have to rush off on an early morning errand. I’ll be posting a “Part Two” to this post later.)