Barack Obama’s feel-good era of transformative politics lasted, oh, about three weeks. It was buried in an avalanche of pork.
When the junior senator from Illinois was elected November 4, many on the right were apprehensive about his lack of experience and liberal political positions. But amid the national euphoria over America putting a black man in the Oval Office, we were willing to take a hiatus from partisan sniping and give the man a decent honeymoon. He had earned one, after all.
Mr. Obama’s approval ratings were through the roof, and practically everyone (myself included, for what it’s worth) wished him well, reasoning quite naturally that if the president did well, the country would do well. Okay, Rush Limbaugh didn’t, but perhaps he knew more than the rest of us. But we all agreed that if the president, a smart man, governed from the center in the light of reality that the Oval Office can provide, he had a chance (a chance, mind you) to do great things. Or at least good ones.
His early moves, however, were not reassuring. One of his first acts (after his re-do on the oath of office) was to reinstate the Mexico City policy, which releases U.S. government funds for groups that advocate and “provide” abortions. (Moral questions aside, one wonders how that is a good use of money in a recession. It certainly provides a good “stimulus” to Planned Parenthood.) Next, his propensity to trust people who think paying taxes is optional didn’t help. Then he ramped up spending on the SCHIP insurance plan, covering families making up to $80,000 and “dependents” up to the age of 30—again, in the midst of an economic “crisis.”
Soon, we would discover his plan: (1) When in doubt, spend; and (2) pay off your political allies. This became evident quickly with the $800-billion-plus “economic stimulus” plan, which throws money at many liberal stalwarts such as ACORN but produces jobs at a cost to future generations of about $300,000 each.
The Republicans, facing minority status for the next generation, were only too willing to be co-opted, but Mr. Obama dissed them instead. He shut them out of negotiations on the plan, which was presented by Nancy Pelosi and company as a fait accompli. Then the GOP discovered, after years of overspending, that it had reached its limit and balked at signing on.
Obama, perhaps angry that the Republicans would not provide the political cover such a bad plan requires, complained that he “won” the election and should get his way. Obama did get his bill in the House on a straight party-line vote. In the Senate, it went much the same, but at least this time the president picked off three eastern “moderates.”
Last night, Mr. Obama again complained of partisanship and “ideological blockage.” Talk about a classic case of projection! Of course, George W. Bush faced vicious partisanship throughout his presidency, but I don’t once recall him complaining publicly about it. That’s life in the big city, Mr. Obama. Perhaps you’re not used to it, Chicago being a one-party town and all.
Mr. Obama, you have the votes in your own party to ram through whatever “stimulus” you want. But no matter how much Vaseline you put on this pig, the one thing that won’t survive is your credibility. You’ve frittered away most of the political capital you had. Now Republicans, and the American people, are going to be a lot more wary. Win or no win, you have yourself to thank for that.
Update: Hundreds of economists, including Christian ones, speak out against the faith-based stimulus plan.