Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama and Limbaugh and the Stimulus

So Rush Limbaugh thinks the President is scared of him. Either the old blowhard has slipped into true megalomania or the meds have done permanent damage. Let us review something here: man whose father was a Kenyan immigrant wins Democratic Party nomination for President and then wins said Presidency. A mere radio show mouthpiece scares this guy? Rush is the comedian Keith Olbermann calls him.

Let us check out the wider world about all of this - or at least, The Washington Post's The Fix:
"It's one week into President Obama's term and his arch nemesis isn't Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) or even one of the myriad candidates interested in challenging him in 2012.

It's conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh drew huge coverage in the days leading up to Obama's inauguration when he declared that he hoped the new president would fail -- part of a broader condemnation of liberalism in the country.

Obama upped the ante late last week when in a private meeting with Republicans he referenced Limbaugh's brand of politics as a big reason why major legislation hadn't been passed in years.

Then on Monday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs offered another sly provocation of Limbaugh; asked to expand on Obama's comments about the talk show host, Gibbs demurred and then added: 'Tell [Rush] I said hi.'

Not surprisingly, Limbaugh took the bait. Of Obama, he said: 'He's obviously more frightened of me than he is Mitch McConnell. He's more frightened of me, then he is of say, John Boehner, which doesn't say much about our party.'"

***

Whether Limbaugh continues to play as prominent a role as the GOP attack dog against Obama remains to be seen. If history is any guide, he will. Limbaugh -- along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) -- is credited with leading the Republican revolt that brought about the 1994 wave election and his near-constant agitation against former President Bill Clinton is well-known.

Put simply: Limbaugh isn't going anywhere any time soon. And his voice -- and influence -- may well get stronger with the GOP out of power. Is that a good thing or a bad thing for Republicans? Time will tell.

How many times in the past year has Obama been underestimated but stayed on top? How often has the media and his opponents misapplied conventional wisdom to him? The least different thing about our President is his skin color. What makes him different - and interesting to me - is his ability to concentrate a not inconsiderable amount of intelligence and knowledge into a plan. he will screw up. He knows he will screw up and he has done as much as possible to mitigate his humanity with his choices for the cabinet and of his advisers. Do not underestimate the Lincoln interest that Obama has.

Glad to see Oliver Willis has the same idea here as me and writes much tighter post with his Above Limbaugh’s Game:

"...Like Rove, Rush is more hype than anything. And Limbaugh has not tangled with someone at President Obama’s level, not even Bill Clinton. At some point, we’re going to carve this into the White House lawn:"

So why pick on Limbaugh? Could it be to marginalize the Republican Party by making it the party that places its own ideology above the national interest? To make the Republicans look like the party that is high balling down a dead end? That Rush Limbaugh and his ilk (ah, there is a word I never thought to use) are the ones who directly profit from placing their partisan interests above the country's interests?

I read In the Agora's Purging Dissent is not the Answer as giving us an idea of what intelligent Republicans/Conservatives are thinking:

It's going to take a few years for the GOP brand to recover from too much power used too freely and for the Democratic brand to come down a peg from over-governing. Hang in there and have hope.

They still think the Right was right.

Willis's post lead me to Off The Grid and Rush Limbaugh Is Hot Under the Collar:

"The game the president is playing is to make a testy, easy-to-arouse, fun-to-rankle Rush come to stand for an odd-ball, tone-deaf, blowhard far right that the rest of the desperate-to-be-liked Republican Party will eagerly distance itself from (if Rush is trying to capitalize on the panty-waist demeanor of so many of his fellow Republicans, he’s also got to suspect that they’ll sell him out.)

Rush’s game is to try to stay in the game. To find some plausible way to characterize and ridicule the president, which will justify the $400 million what-were-they-thinking contract he signed with Clear Channel over the summer. The pressure is on."

If three of us can see this coming, I do not feel that I am imagining it all. The fun question now is: can Limbaugh stop his mouth without ruining his game?

This morning everyone should know the House passed the stimulus bill. If not here is House Passes Stimulus Plan Despite G.O.P. Opposition from The New York Times:

"But the size and substance of the stimulus package remain in dispute, as House Republicans argued that it tilted heavily toward new spending instead of tax cuts.

All but 11 Democrats voted for the plan, and 177 Republicans voted against it. The 244-to-188 vote came a day after Mr. Obama traveled to Capitol Hill to seek Republican backing, if not for the package then on other issues to come.

Mr. Obama, in a statement hailing the House passage of the plan, did not take note of the partisan divide but signaled that he expected changes to be made in the Senate that might attract support."

The House remains unruly (and does everyone recognize now why Rahm Emanuel is Chief of Staff). The Washington Post ran Democrats Among Stimulus Skeptics before the vote:

"Republican criticism of the stimulus package that the House will vote on tonight has focused on its soaring price tag, but some Democrats on Capitol Hill and other administration supporters are voicing a separate critique: that the plan may fall short in its broader goal of transforming the American economy over the long term."

***

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For some House Democrats, the problem is less a matter of balancing the short and long term than a shortage of focus and will on the part of the administration. Their disappointment centers on the relatively small amount devoted to long-lasting infrastructure investments in favor of spending on a long list of government programs. While each serves a purpose, the critics say, they add up to less than the sum of their parts, and fall far short of the transformative New Deal-like vision many of them had entertained.

Dana Milbank wrote about the Republicans in The Republicans Are Smiling, but They're Not Buying:

"Forecasts call for no more than 12 Republicans to vote for Obama's stimulus plan today, and 'it's closer to zero than 12,' said Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), one of a dozen Republicans invited to meet with Obama staff chief Rahm Emanuel at the White House last night. Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.) chuckled when asked whether Obama had won his vote. Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.) laughed. Rep. Dan Burton (Ind.) guffawed.

***

"Yes, we wrote the bill," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last week. "Yes, we won the election."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, was still smarting about that quotation when the committee gathered to consider the stimulus package yesterday morning. "This bill is not the result of the usual bipartisan negotiations," he protested, accusing Democrats of a secret "deal to vote down our amendments."

I would like to remind Representative Grassley what bipartisan negotiations looked like under Tom Delay and George W. Bush. Blue Indiana catches a bit of what it is like under Obama with Mark Souder, Mike Pence love President Barack Obama. Who appears reasonable and who remains looking narrow-minded, even selfish? Even Advance Indiana seems cranky about the bill.

This comes from The New York Times article I noted above:

As Senate Democrats prepare to bring their version of the package to the floor on Monday, House Democrats and the administration indicated they would ultimately accept a provision in the emerging Senate package that would adjust the alternative minimum tax to hold down many middle-class Americans’ income taxes for 2009. The provision was not in the House legislation.

Its cost would drive the overall package’s tally to nearly $900 billion. That would exceed the roughly $850 billion limit that Mr. Obama has set for Congress, House Democratic leadership aides said, and leave no room for other proposals that senators of both parties are poised to seek during Senate debate next week.

While the House and Senate measures are similar, they are most likely to differ in ways that could snarl negotiations between Democrats from the two chambers, and delay getting a measure to the president. In particular, House and Senate Democrats are split over how to divide $87 billion in relief to the states for Medicaid, with senators favoring a formula more beneficial to less-populous states.

Democrats’ own differences aside, they also are under pressure from the White House to be open to proposals from Senate Republicans who might support the final legislation if their interests are accommodated, and which might draw a few Republican supporters on a final vote next month in the House.
Back to Rush and his attacks on the stimulus package, I want to close with this from Paul Krugman's Bad Faith Economics:
"First, there’s the bogus talking point that the Obama plan will cost $275,000 per job created. Why is it bogus? Because it involves taking the cost of a plan that will extend over several years, creating millions of jobs each year, and dividing it by the jobs created in just one of those years."

***

Finally, ignore anyone who tries to make something of the fact that the new administration’s chief economic adviser has in the past favored monetary policy over fiscal policy as a response to recessions.

It’s true that the normal response to recessions is interest-rate cuts from the Fed, not government spending. And that might be the best option right now, if it were available. But it isn’t, because we’re in a situation not seen since the 1930s: the interest rates the Fed controls are already effectively at zero.
I know the Republicans never let facts or reality stand in the way of their lust for power but this being the Age of Obama, I have the audacity to hope.

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