There was a noteworthy exchange between ABC’s Jake Tapper and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:
TAPPER: The president wants this (stimulus) package to be bipartisan and he wants it to be stimulative. But when it passed out of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, not one Republican voted for it. And there are lots of elements of this bill that economists say are not stimulative. There’s $726 million for after-school snacks, $50 million for the NEA, $44 million to repair the USDA, and $200 million to work on the National Mall, including grass. Does President Obama think that what passed under the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday was bipartisan and was stimulative?
GIBBS: There’s no question that the president believes that the bill is stimulative. Our analysis of the legislation right now is that 75 percent of this money will be spent in the next 18 months to create jobs and to get people working and to get the economy moving again. Absolutely, it’s stimulative. It puts money back in people’s pockets that we believe they’ll spend and help the economy. Look, I don’t want to get into this or that vote count in certain committees. This is a — as I said, this process is long and one that will wind through many curves. The president looks forward to working with members of Congress from both parties to ensure that it happens.
But Gibbs really didn’t respond to the nub of the question: Does President Obama want the larded-up, Democrat constructed stimulus bill or does he want a bipartisan bill? Gibbs won’t admit to the junk that is in the bill, but it seems clear the President at this stage isn’t making any effort to slow down the Pelosi steam train. All of the high-minded happy talk — about not allowing spending for the sake of spending, insisting on substantial infrastructure relief and enforcing the rule that spending needs to meet short and long term goals — is pretty much out the window. And, with it, much hope of a truly bipartisan deal.
Now it is possible that the President was not merely stringing along the Republicans and intends to address some of their concerns. But it is an odd process indeed that allows the Democrats to run wild to the point where even the MSM notices the bill is a grab-bag of junk. (Anderson Cooper had a surprisingly hard-hitting segment on the spending pork and lack of bipartisan appeal on his show Friday night.)
So why did the Obama team let Nancy Pelosi go hog-wild? It isn’t clear whether she got the best of the new team or whether there is some rationale for letting her do whatever she wants now. At any rate, unless the White House — or perhaps the Senate – steps in to radically readjust the bill we’ll wind up with a near party-line vote on an enormous, very Old School spending bonanza. I’m not sure how that figures into the President’s plans for smart, non-ideological governance. But it must come as a disappointment to those who thought the Obama administration was going to exhibit more policy sophistication and political inclusiveness than its predecessor.