There are some very reasonable concerns that the stimulus bill is in trouble, that Blue Dogs are undermining the bill and taking out good provisions, etc. Nonetheless, I'm sanguine the bill will pass -- especially with reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the votes to prevent a filibuster -- and that it will ultimately be an effective piece of legislation. Not that it will be as good as it could possibly be -- mistakes were made, after all -- but it will be something progressives can be proud of. Which is why I think Joe Klein makes a good point:
In 1993, I did a pretty shabby job of covering Bill Clinton's economic plan. It was, in sum, a very good plan--it worked wonders for the economy--but I focused on the mishaps. (Clinton, for example, pulled the rug out from under House Democrats by offering a carbon tax, which they voted for...and then the President removed it from the bill.) Clinton couldn't get any Republican votes for the package. A disaster! He had trouble getting Democratic votes for it; he had to beg Bob Kerrey for his vote to get it through the Senate. His presidency was in ruins! He had lost all credibility! (Actually, those of us who had focused on some big ugly trees rather than the blooming forest were the ones who had lost credibility.) It pains me to watch normally reasonable colleagues overreacting to Obama's situation now--which is far less dire than Clinton's was. Some form of stimulus will pass. If it doesn't revive the economy, then more stimulus will be passed. Obama's maintaining the proper balance of reaching out to Republicans, making some compromises, but staying firm on the need for a bill that includes public works as well as tax cuts. A Republican Senator, a vocal opponent of the bill, told me the other day: "The guy has really impressed us. We may not vote for the bill, and he may have to learn that you have to give us more than he wants to give us to make us happy, but he's made a really strong start that will work to his benefit down the road."
Admittedly, the last quote from the Republican senator may represent a load of hooey, or it may not, as the debate about the success of Obama's GOP outreach is still very much a live one. But at the same time, I think the cable news mentality of stimulus failure is too overwrought for the facts of the case. I hope events won't prove me wrong.
-- Tim Fernholz
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