I don't know who has bugged me more during the debate over the stimulus bill, the Democrats or the Republicans. Americans, we are constantly reminded, voted for change, but both sides have been playing familiar roles in this legislative process.
Let's start with congressional Democrats, who seem to be operating from the Bush-Rove-Cheney playbook: Declare that the country faces a crisis and then meet it with whatever hoary policy proposals you've been touting anyway. Granted in execution it's also a classic legislative maneuver: When a bill is bound to pass you pack pet projects on for the ride. But for sheer scale and chutzpah, the shady characters from the 43rd presidential administration must be proud. (Ron Brownstein compares the move to Ronald Reagan in 1981.)
Sure, you need a bit of grease to move things along but, as Jack noted, fully a third of the bill was grease; that much grease might work for cooking bacon, but seems unnecessary while making sausages.
Things like promoting family planning are probably good policy, but ... the last time I checked, this Congress will be together for another year and 11 months, give or take. And this president will be in office for almost another four years. How about tackling things one issue at a time?
And how about not giving the GOP easy targets with which to hammer the message that Democrats like to spend for its own sake (by jamming the stimulus bill with laudable but extraneous measures).
So the GOP has some legitimate gripes with the bill. But Robert's First Rule of Politics tells us that given the choice between a compelling fact-based argument and a compelling exaggeration-based argument, politicians will always choose the latter.
The gang over at Talking Points Memo has done a great job breaking down the nonsense the GOP has been spouting, including fuzzy numbers, poor history, and dumb arguments. But why settle for a good argument when you can stretch, twist, and obscure it into something sexier?
So business proceeds as usual in Washington. (The more we talk about change, the more things stay the same.) We'll see how, if at all, that changes in the coming months and years.
On Facebook? You can keep up with Thomas Jefferson Street blog postings through Facebook's Networked Blogs