Obama’s “I Won” seems likely to be a defining moment — at least in the early part of his presidency. Elected as a bipartisan — or post-partisan, or whatever — he and his supporters seem to think Republicans should be happy that they even pretended to care what we think. Now that they made a show of listening to us, we should dutifully back their craptastic bill and big government agenda (because he won, you see). But that’s not what they did when the roles were reversed. There’s no reason for Republicans to do it now. And sticking to our guns is far more likely to help us politically than to hurt us.
This all started out innocently enough. The President invited Republicans to offer ideas about potential economic stimuli. They took him up on the offer. And according to the Politico at least, everything was fine at the start:
At the meeting, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, passed out copies of the Republicans’ five-point stimulus plan. At first blush, Obama said, “Nothing on here looks outlandish or crazy to me,” Obama said, according to a source familiar with the conversation. He seemed particularly receptive to some Republican ideas about increasing benefits to small businesses.
It was only later that Obama decided he’d heard enough from the other side, and deployed the argument-ending “I won” line:
The exchange arose as top House and Senate Republicans expressed concern to the president about the amount of spending in the package. They also raised red flags about a refundable tax credit that returns money to those who don’t pay income taxes, the sources said.
The Wall Street Journal report is similar, but provides a little more detail:
The statement was prompted by Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona , who challenged the president and the Democratic leaders over the balance between the package’s spending and tax cuts, bringing up the traditional Republican notion that a tax credit for people who do not earn enough to pay income taxes is not a tax cut but a government check.
Obama noted that such workers pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, property taxes and sales taxes. The issue was widely debated during the presidential campaign, when Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, challenged Obama’s tax plan as “welfare.”
With those two words — “I won” — the Democratic president let the Republicans know that debate has been put to rest Nov. 4 .
The point is, the President and his Congressional leadership are entitled to do whatever they want — as long as it meets constitutional muster and gets a majority in both House and Senate. They don’t have to ask for our ideas. They can listen as long as they want, or not at all. But it seems that liberals view this as some kind of favor to the GOP, a chance to talk to Obama before voting for the Democratic bill. That’s ridiculous, and we’d be fools to see it as anything else.
Just think back a few years: George Bush won re-election by a decisive margin in 2004. He had campaigned on continuing to fight the war on terror, reforming Social Security by creating private accounts, expanding trade agreements, and other initiatives. But Congressional Democrats didn’t roll over and vote for the Bush agenda simply because he won. When they disagreed on principle they voted against it. And far more often they opposed him simply because they wanted to destroy his administration.
So why are liberals surprised that Republicans aren’t excited about voting for a plan that has none of their priorities? Over on the Left, they seem to think Obama is doing the GOP a favor. Obama was nice enough to meet with Republicans and listen to them, the thinking goes, so Republicans in Congress now have the fig leaf they need to vote for whatever Obama lays before them. It’s hard to tell whether they think that’s good policy, or whether it’s supposed to be good politics for Republicans. It’s neither, which is why Republicans should vote against any bill that doesn’t reflect their priorities.
This ‘stimulus’ bill is a misbegotten mess of pork barrel projects and waste. With each passing day we find more to hate, and the Democrats are still hiding almost all the details. It will do nothing to help the economy and it might do quite a bit of damage. Politically, American voters will not punish Republicans for voting against it, even if the economy somehow improves despite it. The more they learn about it, the more they oppose it. They will no more turn out Republicans in 2010 because they opposed it, than they turned them out in 1994 for opposing Bill Clinton’s stimulus plan and tax increases. They are likely to recognize that if anything good happens with the economy in the next two years, it’s likely to be due to the normal business cycle, rather than anything in this mess.
So for the Left, the message is don’t do us any favors. You think Obama has ‘disarmed’ us by demonstrating that he knows he’s in a position of strength. That’s fine; we’re disarmed. You think he needs to remember that the American public is with him? Cool. Knock yourself out. You have plenty of votes to muscle this through the House and Senate without a single Republican. Feel free to do so. We’ll risk the backlash.
That’s because we recognize that Obama is not negotiating with us because he wants to do us a favor. He’s doing it because he wants us all on the same hook together.
The likelihood is that this ‘stimulus’ plan will not work and that the people will recognize it. And once Obama has gotten his stimulus, has nationalized banks and car companies, has ‘fixed’ health care, and has increased the debt by $3 or $4 trillion, the voters will be ready for change again in 2010. And as long as Obama and the Democrats dictate terms and expect us to like it, we’ll be happy to bite the hand that feeds.