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The [Tuesday] Papers

I'm still trying to figure out what bipartisanship means, because the way it's been framed by the administration and the press is that it means the party in the minority should suck it up and go along with the president and the party in the majority.

But isn't that what we hated so much about Democrats in the Bush era - that they went along with a phony war and the erosion of civil liberties and an exploding budget deficit to avoid being tagged as "obstructionist," or, as the case may be, anti-American?

It was the same story in the 80s when Democrats were afraid to oppose the relatively popular Ronald Reagan.

So what is bipartisanship, and is it really desirable?

After all, Chicago government is so unified it's unipartisan. How is that working for everyone?

And how can we tell if Democrats in Congress are acting in a bipartisan manner? Is bipartisanship incumbent on Republicans to go along with Dems, or must Dems do something too?

It seems to me that true bipartisanship would result in a lot more Democrats opposing the stimulus bill - both from the right and especially from the left, because bipartisanship means putting country above party.

Or does it simply mean that everyone should get in line?

Finally, I find the word bipartisanship an oxymoron to begin with. Bi means two, right? So we're calling for dual partisanship. Isn't what we're really after non-partisanship? Do what you think is right regardless of party dictate?

Come to think of it, bipartisanship is just about right to describe our politics. John Kass calls the Illinois version the Combine. I don't see how things are much different in the federal government.

*

Didn't the great presidents get that way because they were bipartisan? Lincoln, FDR . . . I don't think so. I think they were great because they had the courage to fight for their beliefs and bring the country along with them. Similarly, those out of power should have the courage to fight for their beliefs when the country is being led astray. That's how our democracy is set up. It's called checks and balances. Not by party politics, mind you, but by exactly the opposite.

False Frame
"I can't afford to see Congress play the usual political games," President Obama says.

Mr. President, please describe which games you are talking about. And name names.

*

And how is it that the administration isn't playing the usual political games?

*

"Do you want the government to do nothing, or do you want it to do something?"

Those aren't the choices on the table. The question is what government should do, not if it should do anything at all. And rushing through a stimulus bill loaded up with massive spending on pet projects and a litany of Democratic agenda items - as worthy as they may be - is hardly a smart approach.

Yes, there is urgency. That's why a smaller bill focused on state aid, unemployment benefits, and maybe something like a cut or suspension in the payroll tax should have gone first, while the New New Deal we've all been waiting on in Obama's first 100 days could be studiously crafted.

The Tribune editorial page is right today when it says "the spending has to be timely, targeted and temporary."

The Tribune is also right when it says "Serious reform of a system this complex requires a lot more debate than this has received."

Isn't that what we've been preaching about here in Chicago? Instead, Obama has taken a page from Daley's playbook and tried to push something through a legislative body without serious discussion because it's an emergency and the deal has to be done immediately, no time for examination and debate, like signing a parking meter contract.

We're still finding out what's in this stimulus bill - and if it was a Republican bill, Democrats would be the ones howling that it's loaded up like a Christmas tree. The only reason why it has no earmarks in it is because it's all earmarks. You don't have to add earmarks to a bill already comprised of the very things you would earmark!

It was White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel who said "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

What he meant was that the stimulus bill was an opportunity to exploit.

Maybe in a political sense Obama can't afford "the usual political games." But in a financial sense, we're the ones who can't afford it. We're not just getting the money; we're the ones who are spending it.

Poker Putz
I wish I had written sooner what I told friends a few days ago, just to prove I was out ahead of this one . . .

When Obama put tax cuts into the stimulus bill to attract Republican support, he made the same mistake that Hillary Clinton told him he was making by opposing mandates in his health care proposals: taking a bargaining chip off the table before negotiations had even begun. (Similar as well to his fake insistence on not requiring preconditions before meeting with brutal dictators at the White House.)

Remember, Obama has, shall we say, limited experience crafting and passing significant legislation. Emil Jones pushed his stuff through in the Illinois legislature, where he was known as a conciliator, and his limited accomplishments in the U.S. Senate were, um, limited.

So I took special notice when I saw Obama say this:

"The Republicans were brought in early and they were consulted. They were pleasantly surprised and complimentary about the tax cuts . . . Those cuts are still in there. I suppose what I could have done was started off with no tax cuts, knowing that I was going to want some, and then let them take credit for all of it. And maybe that's the lesson I learned."

At the same time, the tax cuts for middle-class families are on the order of what Democrats made fun of when Bush was sending us rebate checks. And when Obama says he wants to get money in the hands of people who will spend it, he means poor people. But is that what we really want - poor people spending money to stimulate the economy?

Better to raise taxes on the wealthy, don't you think? With the Dems in the majority, it's very possible that boosting the highest tax rate by just one percent could have been pushed through to help pay for some of this. Among other ideas.

Speaking Power To Truth
Obama repeated his desire to not investigate former Bush officials for war crimes violations. "My general orientation is to say let's get it right moving forward."

That's always the general orientation, and that's why they keep getting away with it.

*

"In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration," the New York Times reports.

The Daley Show
"These lists are not part of any public funding process," Daley said Monday about the stimulus request list that he refused to make public.

He then denied being the mayor, and that it was Monday.

*

Someone please FOIA the list so I don't have to.

Fact-Checking Obama
Via the New York Times.

Reimagine Illinois
Sign the petition here.

Programming Note
At NBCChicago.com:

* Defending Blago. Who his next lawyer might be.

* Lincoln Logged. Enough, already.

* Obama's Shirtsleeves. Why he works in them.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Coding red.



Permalink

Posted on February 10, 2009


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