You'd think passing a $787 billion stimulus bill would count as a victory for Obama. But it was the centrists who got what they wanted from the stimulus bill, and what they wanted was for the entire nation to beseech them for their favor.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talk about the Senate's work to pass the economic stimulus bill Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
If six months ago you had said that within three weeks of taking office, President Obama would pass a $787 billion stimulus bill with billions of dollars for food stamps and schools, infrastructure and energy modernization, health care and broadband, anyone would have said it would be an extraordinary victory for the president, his party and his ideology. Yet now that it has actually happened, the administration is hardly acting triumphal, while some other people are imagining themselves the true winners.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
Every national politician, in good times and bad, will talk about "jobs" -- creating jobs, building jobs, saving jobs, bringing jobs. Or as they sometimes put it, "jobs, jobs, jobs." But as the current debate on the Obama administration's stimulus package has shown, not everybody has the same understanding of what a "job" is. The problem is that philosophy is getting in the way of reality.
At a giddy Capitol Hill ceremony in December 1994, Rush Limbaugh was declared an honorary member of the 104th Congress, so grateful were its ascendant Republicans for the radio host's assistance in winning majorities of both houses. Limbaugh told the assembled members to remain "rock-ribbed devoted in almost a militant way to your principles." And indeed they did.
We know that Barack Obama is all about inclusion. Still, it was a little surprising to hear him give a nod in his Inaugural Address to a group that has been one of America's most disdained, particularly when it comes to politics. "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers," he said, no doubt bringing a smile to millions of faces around the country, and a scowl to millions more.
In The Audacity of Hope, the book Barack Obama penned in advance of his presidential campaign (as all good candidates do these days), he was rather candid about his political image. "I'm new enough on the national political scene," he wrote, "that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them." As Obama takes the oath of office, he can no longer benefit from people simply assuming he agrees with them. Instead of talking about what he might do with power, as of today he will actually wield it.