Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Machiavellian Chicken and the Stimulus Plan

Machiavellian Chicken: Letting The GOP Hang Itself

President Obama's economic stimulus package is taking heat from the Republicans who want it to include tax cuts, tax cuts, and some more tax cuts too. Some of us lefties are exasperated as the prez chants his mantra of bipartisanship.

But consider this possibility:

Obama's giving them enough rope to hang themselves. A couple weeks of this, and he turns the tables: "See? You can't work with these people. They represent the same old politics as usual, the same old answers that didn't work. I gave `em a chance and they blew it."

Obama tipped his hand Friday with the "I won" line, and he's got the votes in the House. (The weak link, as usual, is the Senate, where Harry Reid is more likely to cave because of the personal relationships. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings in the Senate, ya know, unless it's a total non-ballplaying, put a hold on my earmarks asshat like Tom Coburn.)

But still, I think what's really going on is a Machiavellian game of chicken, with Obama seeking both the stimulus package he wants and the rhetorical high ground. Remember, this is the guy who won the toughest nomination contest in history, and he's got the hardest of the hardballers, Rahm, as consigliere.

And the Republicans are playing right into the trap by appealing to their base, because they don't know how to do anything else anymore. Does no Republican see the void here? The politics of the Nixon-Wallace-Reagan alignment (1968-2008, RIP) are still playing out in the GOP: fewer members, elected from custom-gerrymandered, more conservative districts, eternally playing to their talk-radio constituency in fear of being primaried by the Club For Growth.
[Tangent]I'm wrong on one thing in my Sunday speculation on which GOP senator gets a from-the-right primary. Cross my bet, Richard Shelby of Alabama, off the list, along with Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. A guy (in the original article Cook specified guy) worried about a primary challenge wouldn't have voted FOR Tim Geithner, against most of the Senate GOP.

My new bet is Bob Bennett of Utah, from new Rep. Jason Chaffetz who just knocked off Chris Cannon in a House primary last year. Insert the Dennis Miller disclaimer.[/tangent]

No matter what the question, Republicans answer "tax cuts." How do you land an astronaut on the moon? Tax cuts. Cards or Steelers? Tax cuts. Tastes great or less filling? Tax cuts. Tax cuts are a floor wax and a dessert topping.

You know who the real losers are these days? Deficit hawks. No one cares about the freakin' deficit anymore. The American people know all about deficit spending--it's what they do when they live off their credit card after they get laid off. "Screw the deficit," they say, " I need a job."

So in the end, Obama doesn't spend political capital to get the stimulus plan--he gets the plan and MORE capital.

1 comment:

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