Saturday, January 3, 2009

Does Pelosi get the message about working with the Republicans?

In his weekly address, Barack Obama talks in vague terms that "the problems we face today are not Democratic problems or Republican problems... These are America's problems, and we must come together as Americans to meet them with the urgency this moment demands." and that "we need an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." I am sure that Barack fully understands that he needs more than a couple of Republicans onboard if he wants a plan that is as grandiose as he envisions and as quickly as he correctly deems it necessary, but I have seen no evidence that Pelosi and her fellow Democratic hench-persons in both houses of Congress are in fact ready if not enthusiastic about accommodating the alternative views of a moderate number of moderate Republicans. From news reports, it does sound as if Barack's stimulus (or "recovery and reinvestment") team has been instructed to incorporate items from an earlier House stimulus bill, but that is surely a recipe for arriving at a standoff with most Republicans in the Senate. I suspect that Barack knows that this will be the result in the very near term (this week) and that he has "calculated" that he needs to allow that result to show that he is nominally on the side of the Progressive wing of the Democratic party. Once that standoff is reached, Barack can then turn to Pelosi, et al and wait for them to finally admit that they will have to make some concessions in order to get their bill passed. Barack will not have to say anything. The Democrats already know that concessions are needed, but they need to play to The Progressives and pretend that the Democrats "control" Congress. This is the way "The Game" is played in Washington. Sure, Barack said he wanted to stop playing "the same old games of Washington", but he wants fast, substantial results, so that's what is required.

So, the question is what Progressive elements of the current, unseen American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will need to be ditched and what minimal collection of Republican stimulus policies need to be added to get at least a dozen moderate Republicans to vote for the bill and to not have it be so toxic to the remaining right-wing Republicans that they engage in parliamentary stalling tactics.

Barack said:

I look forward to meeting next week in Washington with leaders from both parties to discuss this plan.  I am optimistic that if we come together to seek solutions that advance not the interests of any party, or the agenda of any one group, but the aspirations of all Americans...

The first part about "discuss this plan" suggests that his initial proposal is somehow already cut into stone and he will be like Moses presenting the Ten Commandments, but then he goes on to say "seek solutions that advance not the interests of any party, or the agenda of any one group", suggesting that significant changes would be permitted, even bi-partisan changes that are not strictly supported by only the Democrats. These are conflicting messages, but I suspect that is intentional on his part.

What Barack is really saying is that his initial proposal incorporates most if not all of the Progressive economic agenda, which should convince The Progressives that he is nominally on their side, but that he fully recognizes that compromise with moderate Republicans will be required and essential and in fact a good thing.

To be fair, Pelosi may in fact agree with this approach 100%, but for political reasons cannot and must not challenge The Progressives and admit that compromise will be even considered.

So, this necessary Democratic pandering to The Progressives means that an economic stimulus plan needs to be rolled out in this multi-step fashion, with step one being intentionally crippled to pander to The Progressives, step two being moderate Republicans shaking their heads "No", step three being Barack meeting with all of the "injured" parties, step four being Pelosi acknowledging that the Senate does not have the votes, step five being modifications to make the plan bi-partisan, and finally passable by the Senate.

-- Jack Krupansky

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