Diary

Paging Admiral Ackbar

I don’t mean to get unnecessarily conspiratorial, but I find it more than a little interesting that Barack Obama’s stimulus package is getting fire from Democrats for not being sufficiently New Dealish. Perhaps Team Obama did not do the necessary amount of consulting with its Democratic allies on the Hill before rolling out the plan and therein lies the genesis for many of the complaints. If so, Republicans ought to rejoice in the possibility that Team Obama is too clumsy to keep its natural allies happy and loyal and draw hope from the possibility that within some time, the incoming Administration will be about as popular with Capitol Hill Democrats as Jimmy Carter ended up being.

But what if all of this outrage is just a clever trap, a feint that is meant to make the Obama stimulus package seem moderate in comparison to the wishlist of Capitol Hill Democrats? I have no proof that this is the plan but it seems a reasonable possibility and it wouldn’t be the first time such a feint was carried out. In my view, Republicans would be best off if they assumed that this was indeed the plan and reacted accordingly by ensuring that the stimulus plan is defined on Republican terms, and not on Obama vs. Capitol Hill Democrat terms.

Such a tactic would ensure that the Republican message filters down to the public. It would also open up negotiating possibilities for Congressional Republicans as they seek to reshape objectionable parts of the legislation. The battle over the stimulus package should not turn into a bidding war between the incoming Obama Administration and Capitol Hill Democrats. Such a bidding war would cut Republicans completely out of the policymaking picture and produce a bill that involves the expenditure of gargantuan amounts of money which will make the federal budget deficit astronomically huge and will implement bad and ineffective policy to boot.

As I understand it, the duty of the opposition is to oppose responsibly. Here’s a chance to do so and Congressional Republicans can start by not allowing themselves to fall into a potential trap by permitting the Obama stimulus package to be portrayed as some sort of middle-of-the-road piece of legislation.