Older, White Congressman Belittles Black Man

It appears that Obama fatigue is starting to set in among Capitol Hill Democrats. That might come as a surprise — particularly considering that Obama served in Congress with all of the Democratic leaders, that he hasn’t even been sworn in, and that his 76 percent approval rating contrasts sharply with the 23 percent rating that Congress gets. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the leadership on Capitol Hill is not only eager to push him around, they’re willing to tease him as they do so.

This for example, is extraordinary:

David Obey (D-WI), the House Appropriations Committee chairman, just met with reporters in his bright corner office to discuss the $825 billion economic stimulus bill that was released today…

He observed that many projections show the unemployment rate growing even after the stimulus is approved. Later in the briefing, Obey got more candid. “I believe this [bill] may in fact under-shoot the mark” for economic recovery, he admitted.

Obey also pointedly asserted Congress’ ownership of the stimulus bill, which he began to craft with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Dem leaders after the election. As for President-elect Obama, who will be hitting the road to promote the legislation tomorrow, Obey referred to him twice — with characteristically acerbic humor — as “the crown prince.”

Asked about Obama’s vow to keep earmarks out of the stimulus, the congressman’s response was to the point. “Very frankly, we didn’t need to hear that from anybody in the executive branch.”

We’ve already seen Harry Reid assert that he does not work for Barack Obama, and we’ve seen a number of liberal leaders in Congress implicitly criticize Obama for suggesting a stimulus package that’s too small. Now senior Democrats are rewriting Obama’s ‘stimulus’ plan, denying him credit, and belittling him as they do it.

Kimberly Strassel gets it exactly right:

Some of this is ego. Thrilled as Democrats were to take back the White House, John Conyers, David Obey, Mr. Rangel and Pete Stark alone can boast of (and do) cumulatively 146 years more in Washington than the Illinois rookie. They’ve also been waiting a long time to run things their way…

Whatever the cause, it is a dangerous beginning. Mr. Obama can currently afford to do some accommodating. But if he gets a reputation for getting rolled by the unruly mob, his agenda is kaput. Congressional Democrats, with their 9% approval rating, are meanwhile picking a fight with a guy who, if backed into a fight, may win. Though neither side will “win.”

So far, Capitol Hill liberals have met little resistance as they have attempted to dictate terms to Obama. The picture emerging on the Hill is of an executive who sets broad parameters, and then lets others fill in the details. But if Obama intends to let Congressional liberals dictate priorities and legislation, he better prepared ultimately to share their approval rating.