The Blog

Obama's False Choice Between Doing Nothing and Doing Something

11:14 AM, Feb 10, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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The House and Senate Democrats did fail. They shut House Republicans out of the deal-making while they stuffed the bill full of things even 11 of their own couldn't countenance. They voted down almost every single Republican amendment in the Senate, most of which were designed to cut wasteful spending or offer further tax relief, without regard to whether supporting one or two might have lured a few more Republican votes. And, Obama failed to control the process. As he is wont to do, he stood back and looked cool, thereby preserving his own approval numbers, but failing to lead.

The stimulus package will almost certainly pass, but the road to passage has been so bruising for the new president, that there's a palpable sense of frustration among Democrats. Reid's soldiers are going forth to frag Democratic dissenters with juvenile, campaign-style soundbites. In doing so, they're likely inspiring more unity among Blue Dogs than fear of the somewhat underwhelming Reid.

When Obama wasn't stultifying at the podium yesterday, he was petulant. He blamed Bush more times than necessary for the economic situation, inaccurately implying that it was tax cuts that caused the downturn instead of the housing bubble and credit crisis. He sounded downright defensive when talking about fiscal responsibility:

"When it comes to how we approach the issue of fiscal responsibility, again, it's a little hard for me to take criticism from folks, about this recovery package, after they presided over a doubling of the national debt. I'm not sure they have a lot of credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility,"

It's a fair enough point, though much of the debt came from the TARP expenditures he supported, but it was delivered with annoyance. That, and Obama's total rewriting of Japanese economic history, showed a weakness Obama doesn't usually betray. His backhands are usually more sly, his fudging of facts more deft. Whether he "wins" on this bill or no, the great orator of the new politics is rattled, and he brought it on himself.