Commentary Magazine


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In Less Than Two Weeks

It is rather amazing that less than two weeks after he was triumphantly sworn in, the President is getting bad reviews. Yuval Levin surveys the scene:

When they manage to unify the entire House Republican caucus with David Brooks and Peggy Noonan, you know the Democrats have seriously botched something up. And boy, they really have. The more you look at the stimulus bill the clearer it becomes that it is the Congressional Democrats, not the opponents of this bill, who have failed to see that we are in a genuine and exceptional crisis. They’re working to use the moment as an opportunity to advance the same agenda they haven’t been able to move (with good reason) for a decade and more, and in the process are showing that agenda to be what we always knew it was: a massively wasteful, reckless, profligate, slovenly, higgledy-piggledy mess of interest group troughs and technocratic fantasies devoid of any economic thinking or sense of proportion.

[. . .]

The Democrats on the Hill have somehow managed to begin the age of Obama by putting forward their ugliest side first and in a big way. It can’t be what Obama wanted, and it sure isn’t what the country needs. But it looks like it’s what we are going to get.

And its not just center-right, sympathetic pundits who are crying foul. When the A.P. and the President’s close Senate ally Claire McCaskill pan the stimulus bill you know things aren’t going as planned. (Hmm. Does E.J. Dionne think they are just placing “bets on the prospect that Obama’s policies will fail”?)

We could, I suppose, see only minor modifications of the bill and then a straight party-line vote, with perhaps some nervous vote-counting to get to the magic filibuster-proof  sixty in the Senate. Republicans would be riding high as public disgust with the measure rises and the potential for a bipartisan, new governing majority slips from the President’s grasp. Or we could have a reworking of the bill which recognizes that the House Democrats badly overstepped.

Time will tell, but the brisk turn of events and the remarkable shift in perception only emphasizes how much of the political prognostication forgets a cardinal fact: governing is hard and the party in power bears a heavy responsibility when things go wrong.