Let’s rewind that tape and imagine how this all could have played out better for President Obama.
Let’s imagine that instead of telling Congressional leaders that he wanted to jam through a stimulus package the week he was sworn in, he decided to actually work with Republicans to pass a bill.
Let’s imagine that he listened to the Republicans and that he proposed a simple two-step stimulus package. The first half would have been a dramatic lowering of the corporate tax rate to say 10 percent, which would have instantly led to a quick burst of economic activity. The second half would have been focused on transportation projects, not only including shovel ready projects, but other longer-term projects that would have insured sustainable growth for the future.
Imagine if as part of this stimulus plan that he gave every family who made less than $50,000 a $10,000 dollar check and every family who made less than $100,000 a $5000 check. I bet you that would have stimulated the economy.
Republicans and Democrats would have had no choice to vote for that bill.
Let’s imagine the president then proposed a freeze in discretionary spending for a year, and threatened to veto any appropriations bills that included earmarks. And when the Congress sent him a bill filled with earmarks, imagine if he actually vetoed it.
Republicans would have approved of his strong stand against spending.
Then, imagine that he proposed a plan on health care that was simple and direct, and then fought for that proposal. Imagine that he said that the government was going to set up a catastrophic insurance program that the American people could voluntarily buy in to. Imagine if he coupled that with an expanded Health Savings Account program, to give Americans more control over their health care spending.
Many Republicans would have opposed such a plan, but I bet you more than a few would have supported it.
Imagine if the president decided not to have the government take over General Motors, and didn’t fire its CEO.
Imagine if the president had told Congressional leaders that we are postpone a cap-and-trade bill until after the economy had settled down a bit, because frankly consumers can’t afford to pay an energy tax when they are struggling to pay their mortgage or their rent. Imagine how many Blue Dogs would have appreciated that decision, especially those who are barely hanging on to their House seats today.
And imagine if the president told the Congress to pass the Colombia and South Korean trade deals, because the best thing that could happen to the world economy is expanded trade.
The president didn’t do any of that. He pushed for a partisan stimulus bill, which hasn’t worked. He signed a pork-infested appropriations bill. He had the government take over GM and fire its CEO. He let Congress draft the health care bill, and it languished and festered and became a partisan nightmare, until it eventually passed earlier this week. He pushed for a Cap and Trade, making the Blue Dogs walk the plank in the House, only to see it die in the Senate. And, of course, he didn’t dare push for any of the trade bills to be taken up by the House or the Senate.
He hasn’t governed as a centrist. He has governed as a liberal partisan because he believes that his ideology is right and the Republican ideology (a belief in free-markets and free-trade) is wrong. He said over and over again that he won the election and the Republicans should do it his way. Well, the president did do it his way, and now, despite the fact that he finally passed his largest domestic initiative, the chances are that he will lose the House and may lose the Senate.
This all could have played out differently, but we are where we are because the president is who he is. The Democrats want to blame the Republican Party and the Tea Party for stoking the anger of a large percentage of the American people. But the Republicans are merely reflecting the concerns of their constituents, who are wondering where exactly Mr. Obama is leading the country. They have ample reason to be worried.
John Feehery is President of the Feehery Group, a strategic advocacy firm dedicated to helping its clients achieve their legislative and communications objectives in Washington D.C. He is also a frequent commentator on the political landscape, widely quoted around the country and often seen on such television programs as CNN’s The Situation Room, MSNBC’s Hardball, and Bloomberg Television’s Money and Politics. He is also a contributor to The Hill’s “Pundits Blog”