By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Having given Team Audacity a free helping of my invaluable and remarkably unsolicited advice, I now turn to congressional Republicans with four simple words of wisdom from this week's featured poet, Robert Louis Stevenson.
Quit while you're ahead.
My dear Republicans. Your squealing about spending, and your clamor for more tax cuts, has pretty much worked. You've heckled the timid red state Democrats and blue state Republicans into their usual state of fluster, and taken advantage of the fact that, without an imperative context, the House-passed fix for the economy can be portrayed as scattershot and lame.
Harry Reid's limitations are, once more, on display. With no blood on your hands in the Daschle affair, you've reminded the country that the Democratic members of the permanent Washington establishment are as venal as Republican ones.
And you've exploited Rahm Emanuel's singular character flaw: immodesty. Not since John Sununu has a White House chief of staff said anything as self-satisfyingly clever, and politically dumb, as "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." That declaration of political opportunism confirmed the Republican complaints about hidden agendas in the stimulus package.
And yet, my GOP friends, don't make the same mistakes that Team Audacity did: Don't think you're winning because you are particularly brilliant. Don't entertain the delusion that the country is 100 percent behind you.
The country is 100 percent (well, after discounting the die-hard libertarians, maybe 85 percent) behind just one thing: J-O-B-S. And any politician who doesn't get that won't be enjoying his or her chauffeured town car much longer.
Hey, Susan Collins—Do you really think that "More tax cuts for the bosses!" is a saleable economic philosophy in Maine? Tom Coburn is from Oklahoma. You're from New England. Last time I checked, the ranks of New England Republicans were getting a might thin. Do you really want to take home John McCain's half-a-loaf stimulus plan and try to sell it as an economic fix? Didn't your constituents just answer that question?
You're looking good, Suze, standing there with the new president, basking in the attention, joining Obama in a pragmatic, post-partisan search for solutions. But do you like words like "ingrate" and "churlish"? Because that's what they're gonna call you if, after having had Obama extend his hand, you spit on it.
And that is really the question for all Republicans. The last time you went the scorched-earth route it was 1992, and with the help of squishy Democrats like David Boren (who? is the proper, and instructive response, for the Mark Udalls of the Senate) you had Bill Clinton bleeding and sweating and scrounging for votes to pass his tax and budget plan.
The economy took off, the Republicans got no credit and, despite his many personal flaws, Clinton became just the third two-term Democratic president of the century—routing the Senate Republicans' own leader, Bob Dole, in the 1996 election.
Go ahead. Try it again. Maybe things will work out differently this time. Maybe the country will conclude that big tax cuts for Wall Street pirates, rich retirees, and the nation's clueless bankers are actually the ticket. After all, they've been working so well.
I paraphrased that Stevenson quote. What he actually is said to have said was, "Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well." You guys have played a cold deck with great skill. Don't be greedy. Color up.