Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 4, 2009

FOR THE DEFENSE.... The point of President Obama's media blitz yesterday wasn't to talk about, or accept responsibility for, the breakdown of Tom Daschle's HHS nomination, but rather, to mount a defense for the pending economic stimulus package. The timing was bad, but the goal was good -- much of the coverage of the debate has not only been slanted, it's also been frequently wrong. A plan that should enjoy overwhelming public support doesn't.

And while the political world absorbs the news over Daschle's withdrawal, it's worth emphasizing the fact that Obama's remarks in support of the stimulus proposal were quite good. ABC's Charlie Gibson, for example, said that "some people" believe the recovery plan "is pork-stuffed, and that it really doesn't stimulate." The president replied:

"Well, Charlie, if you take a look at the bill, the fact is, there are no earmarks in this bill, which, by the way, some of the critics can't claim for legislation they've voted for over the last eight years. There's no earmarks in it. We've made sure that there aren't individual pork projects in there.

"The criticisms have generally been around some policy initiatives that were placed in the bill that I think are actually good policy, but some people may say is not going to actually stimulate jobs quickly enough. I think that there's legitimate room for working through those issues over the next several weeks to make sure that we get the best possible bill. But here's the thing that I think we have to understand. The economy is in desperate straits. What I won't do is adopt the same economic theories that helped land us in the worst economy since the Great Depression. What I will do is work with anybody of good faith to make sure that we can come up with the best possible package to not only create jobs and provide support to families, but also to lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth."

Gibson then misquoted the Congressional Budget Office, before asking if Obama would accept more infrastructure investment, and more concessions to make Republicans happy.

"Well, keep in mind, for example, some want to put more infrastructure in the bill, and they're also complaining that it doesn't spin out fast enough. In some cases, there are contradictions there. I mean, we may want to spend on a whole bunch of great infrastructure, but it may take seven or eight years to do it, in which case we're vulnerable for the criticism that it's not spinning out fast enough. I think that in a package of this sort, that has to go to Congress with 535 opinions, at least, then there's going to be some give and take.

"What I've said is that any good idea thrown out there to improve this legislation I'm for. But I want to be absolutely clear here that the overwhelming bulk of the package is sound, is designed to put people back to work, help states that are in desperate straits, help families who are losing jobs and health care, and it's designed to make sure that we've got green energy jobs for the future. In fact, most of the programs that have been criticized as part of this package amount to less than one percent of the overall package. And it makes for good copy, but here's the thing -- we can't afford to play the usual politics at a time when the economy continues to worsen."

Gibson then suggested Speaker Pelosi engaged in some "in-your-face trash-talking to the Republicans" on the stimulus package.

"Well, I think what Speaker Pelosi also said was that she wanted to sit down with them and talk to them and, in fact, included some of their ideas in the package. I mean, keep in mind, when I first released the framework for our plan, we were complimented by the Republicans for the fact that about $300 billion of the package was in the form of tax cuts. I was criticized by members of my own party.

"Now, that hasn't changed much. The only thing that's changed is the politics of it. And I'm less concerned about bipartisanship for bipartisanship's sake. I'm interested in solving the problem for the American people as quickly as possible."

That's a pretty forceful and effective defense. Perhaps Obama can repeat it again this morning. And this afternoon. And tomorrow. And non-stop until senators actually pass the thing.

Steve Benen 8:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

What's the chance that Charlie Gibson, and his ilk, listen?

Posted by: Eric on February 4, 2009 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

I like the "less concern about bipartisanship for bipartisanship's sake" part...a lot!!! Let's solve some problems.

Posted by: Jess on February 4, 2009 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP pretend to care so deeply about the stimulus, when it is patently obvious and a derelict of their duty to the public, that the GOP are working furiously for the next elections and not the peoples' economic crisis looming so large at this time. Some Republican Pundits charged with this task, call the Stimulus a stinking corpse, before it is even born, instead of what it is -- a valuable work in progress for this country. Like any creation, in the early stages, it is chaos and not fully formed, such as a fetus, a painting, any work of art, and yet the artist ploughs on knowing the beauty to be eventually created. Why in the world, would some Pundits criticize the early form instead of giving support, is beyond the pale, especially when they know to publically criticize it is to get the ball rolling to derail it. May be they do not love this country more than their party affiliation! These pundits sit in their high-paying jobs, so lofty, and pick apart every little thing someone says or does, Wears...., with nothing good to say, like their word is God or gold -- as they no longer report the news but give their Opinions about the news. There was a time when we were taught as Americans, if you have nothing good to say about anyone, say nothing at all. We have lost that. These Pundits are a part of the problem and not the solution.

At this critical stage in our rapidly-crumbling economy, it would seem that the Republican Senators would do everything they can to do something, to tell the American people, I am on your side, and not always to quickly say no to the middle class and the little people; no to schools, education, infra structure, green jobs, all of which have too long been denied and neglected and Yet, always yes to the Special Interest Groups, to wars, to big oil and their tax breaks.

It is a sad fact that for average American citizens, the GOP is becoming the party of NO! We can not depend on the GOP to help us, they never have. In 2010, we will know what to do.

Posted by: Angellight on February 4, 2009 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

Charlie Gibson doesn't have to listen: any two GOP senators have to listen in order for Dem bills to be bulletproof. I think we should shamelessly give priority to Maine and Pennsylvania for green energy and infrastructure spending and make sure the people there know it, so we dare Snow and Specter to keep voting against job creation in their own states.

Posted by: Richard Greenslade on February 4, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

This whole exercise is going pretty well for Obama. He is leading and the country is listening. The only important segments that aren't paying attention are the Washington media elite and Republican Congress critters. I listened to Charlie Crist last night. He is gushing for the stimulus package. Wants a few changes, but he can't wait to get the money for Florida. Do you think the Republican governors are going to be pleased if McConnell and his cronies kill the whole thing?

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 4, 2009 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

I thought Obama did a great job here of showing the complexity of competing priorities. Bipartisanship vs a good plan, quick stimulus vs infrastructure spending, cooperation between branches vs competing ideologies, and the need to act quickly vs doing it in a thorough and inclusive manner. This wasn't fence straddling. This was clarifying nuance.

Posted by: Danp on February 4, 2009 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Ummmm, Steve,.....the noise machine is ratcheting up in an all-out full-court press. Hell, even the NBC's Today Show had a FOX News personality/pundit on their show to continue the misinformation campaign.

Welcome to the new administration's media coverage. After a week-long honeymoon with the media, the Republicans (with help from three tax cheats) are successfully wrestling control of the soundbites. Now that their screaming, howling, feces throwing caged monkey antics are getting attention again, expect ALL NOISE ALL THE TIME.

Posted by: palinoscopy on February 4, 2009 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Sad to say an extra $25 million for infrastucture only garnered 58 votes.

And, with all of this talk about ever sooooo many Democrats in the Senate, what good is Sen Ben Nelson leading the charge to cut several items. Where is he in the "solidarity" mix? WaPo reports he is one of those keeping the needed Democratic votes from passing the bill.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 4, 2009 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

A plan that should enjoy overwhelming public support? Says who? This plan sucks. To many tax breaks that won't do shit.

Posted by: Rick on February 4, 2009 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

"a work of art, a fetus" bwhahahahahahaha!!!

A government giveaway ushered through by corrupt politicians and lobbyists and shaped and formed by a kleptocrat media and vile corporations.

No one will here Obama's words, all the soundbites from the interview are about Daschle. It's a bad situations compounded by a bad situation.

This bill stinks. It's basically 4 more years of Bush.

Posted by: grinning cat on February 4, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

hear not here. no caffeine yet...

Posted by: grinning cat on February 4, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

grinning cat,

Four more years of Bush.

Posted by: Micheline on February 4, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Watching Charlie interview President Obama, I tried to imagine Bush in the chair. It was impossible because Charlie would never have used that body language or lecturing tone with Bush. With Obama, Charlie takes on the role of Jr. High Principal, when he interviewed Bush, Charlie looked like he couldn't wait to get an autograph.

Posted by: Capt Kirk on February 4, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

Barely two weeks into his administration, Washington punditry and conventional wisdom has all but sounded a death knell for Obama.

I don't get it, I'm seriously at a loss. It's as if they want him to fail. Maybe rush isn't some sideshow freak after all, and he is just echoing what the majority in Washington want. They want Obama to fail, they want the status quo to remain. They don't give a rat's ass about this country.

On Morning Joe today they were all railing about how the stimulus package is nothing but pork, and if it passes in it's current form, 'journalists' will be for years investigating the corruption and fraud, leading to the republicans regaining power.

Um, hello? Iraq? No bid contractors? Torture? That god damned piece of paper we call the Constitution?

And the Republicans are fine with that, but talk about investing in our OWN COUNTRY?

My mind is flabbergasted, boggled, just really fucked up right now.

Even a relatively democratic guy on the show said that the American people expected change, and are becoming seriously disappointed. He never bothered to mention the fact that republicans are obstructing for no other reason other than to make Obama fail. Pure politics.

Sorry for the rant, but I am fed up. I hope the democrats learn how to play hardball with these punks. We have the mandate and the majority.

Posted by: citizen_pain on February 4, 2009 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Look, I voted for this guy and even I am having a hard time with the stimulus bill. First, in an economy where most families and businesses are responding to the new reality by cutting back, the government is telling me it wants to spend unprecedented amounts of money. That is at best counterintuitive, even if it is a correct policy response. Congress and the administration need to do a better job of articulating what stimulus is and why it is needed. Second, people are looking at this new bill with TARP colored glasses. Notwithstanding some loosening of the credit markets, I think I am with a lot of Americans who don't think we got much for the money (and I refuse to blame it all on Bush or Paulson), or at least no one has adequately explained what we got for 350 billion. It makes me a bit leary about throwing more money down a rabit hole. Third, I have heard nothing about how this money will be managed. I am not particularly eager to turn this money over to the states without some guarantee that it will be used its intended purpose. We sent pallets of cash to Iraq, nothing, we sent enormous resources to the Gulf Coast (after a while), nothing. Throwing money around doesn't fix things. It does invite the carion of graft and corruption that circle every statehouse in this wonderful Country. So, I am not attending any house parties to support the stimulus bill, and I am not calling my congressman, because, as a Democrat, I am not sold. Forget the Republicans, Obama needs to sell me on the stimulus and his interveiws yesterday were a start, but didn't go nearly far enough.

Posted by: Scott F. on February 4, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Um...
grinning cat,

Four more years of Bush. What are you smoking?

Posted by: Micheline on February 4, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

First, in an economy where most families and businesses are responding to the new reality by cutting back, the government is telling me it wants to spend unprecedented amounts of money. -Scott F.

The government is not a business and people would do well to stop thinking of them like one. The reason government needs to spend money is because businesses have to cut back.

That is at best counterintuitive, even if it is a correct policy response. -Scott F.

If no one is spending, where will the new jobs come from? Roads won't magically appear. Someone has to spend, and in the absence of private sector spending, that someone has to be the government. We know beyond any doubt that government spending is stimulative and can help our economy. The question should simply be where to spend it.

Posted by: doubtful on February 4, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

"Congress and the administration need to do a better job of articulating what stimulus is and why it is needed" ---- Scott F.

And how do you propose they do that when the MSM and their handlers are doing everything they can to lie and obfuscate?

As for you being a democrat but not 'sold' on the package, what does that mean? I'm not an economist and I too believe that throwing money at things won't solve problems, BUT, something HAS to be done, and the longer it takes to get started, the more momentum the republicans can gain and eventually stall or water down the package until it will not be effective, and then they'll blame the democrats and Obama.

I say if the bill has a little pork, so what? If FDR was so tentative, would the New Deal have have been as far reaching and successful as it was? Bear in mind, every argument you hear from republicans and other naysayers and fiscal 'conservatives' - democrats like yourself, about how poor this plan is is exactly the same arguments made against the various parts of the New Deal.

Posted by: citizen_pain on February 4, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

It's very simple - infrastructure stimulus is popular, bank bailout is not.

Corporate media is trying to obfuscate the two, and no wonder the stimulus bill is losing popularity.

Obama's task is cut out for him. The media blitz was a good start, but his truth-telling spree needs to continue...

Posted by: Ohioan on February 4, 2009 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Doubtful - I appreciate your attempt to educate me on the issues. Really. However, my reference to "the correct policy response" might have given a clue that I am well aware of the reasons for government stimulus. The comment was directed to the need for (a) greater scrutiny of the stimulus bill and (b) a better explanation for the nuts and bolts of stimulus. I think the public needs an economics 101 lesson (e.g., consumers/innovation drive economic growth). The problem: economy is no longer growing for two main reasons (a) credit crunch, (b)consumers are no longer spending. The solution(s): government should do nothing and let the market sort it out (Exhibit A - Great Depression); have government step in and act as a lender/consumer (Exhibit A - Great Depression (at least according to Douglas Holtz-Eakin and others at the American Enterprise Institute) Explain the consequences of each alternative. (See above). Choose a solution: government stimulus. Effect the sollution: write a bill that provides government stimulus. Explain the sollution: It is anticipated that these types of government spending will mimic market spending and will stimulate job creation, and have the long-term benefit of creating greater efficiency, productivity and capacity. Congress has failed to some extent in its initial mission by conflating government spending with stimulus spending, which has been made worse by media noise and the need for a story. The Administration has so far failed to connect all of the dots, from explaining why we are in this mess (this is a new and much bigger mess than the credit crisis) to how this bill is potentially going to dig us out or at least prevent the situation from getting worse. The Administration hasn't convinced me that this Bill is a stimulus bill, and I am neither a naysayer for goverment stimulus nor interested in having this Administration fail. The interview process is not the appropriate format to explain and defend things this complicated. I think Obama should have a sit-down with Country and carefully lay things out (any location containing a fireplace should be studiously avoided) so that even John McCain could understand it.

Posted by: Scott F on February 4, 2009 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

The reality is that the CORPORATE MEDIA is akin to the mafia. They are in fact a criminal enterprise who INTENTIONALLY promote CORPORATE PROPAGANDA DEFINED BY THEIR OWN SELF INTEREST. Thus, we get these journalistic criminals in the form of the Charlie Gibson's , David Gregory's, Wolf Blizter's, and all the rest of them standing their in their million dollar suites and dresses CONSCIOUSLY LYING to the American people, 'journalists' who are no different than a monkey with it's little hat on, tethered to a grinding organ, and the organ is being played by the CORPORATIONS THEMSELVES, AND THE JOURNALISTIC MONKEYS DANCING TO THEIR TUNE. These 'journalists' no longer have souls. Instead, in their place, is nothing more than a rancid abscess of evil puss. All of them have their pants pulled down and lurching in front of the CORPORATE PENIS squeaking 'fuck me, fuck me, 'me first, me first' .. This is the state of the 'MEDIA' ... laws should be passed for purposeful journalist fraud and misconduct and all these 'journalistic monkey's' should be frog marched out of the protection of their CORPORATE STUDIOS AND DIRECTLY INTO PRISON. ONCE THEIR THEY SHOULD BE TURNED INTO BITCHES FOR THE ENJOYMENT OF THE INMATES.

Posted by: stormskies on February 4, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

And I'm less concerned about bipartisanship for bipartisanship's sake.

Well, see, that's his problem right there -- because that's exactly what the Villagers are concerned about. Obama is concerned about bipartisanship to the extent it can produce pragmatic, workable solutions, while the media conventional wisdom is concerned about bipartisanship purely for its own sake (why this so is a matter for another post).

Posted by: Stefan on February 4, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's remarks on bi-partisanship are right on. In this environment, bi-partisanship has to start from the ground up and be about solving real problems not cosmetic. The polls and my own experience indicate that that's happening, and when it does, it will look more like a political realignment than a congressional mosh pit.

Posted by: BruceJ on February 4, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

The Angler spits out: "And we're not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek."
Eh, this is a direct put-down of a saying by Christianity's founder (and that maladministration really didn't follow the ways of Jesus, for sure for the most part.) So what's with this whole thing about evangelicals adoring Bush, the Republicans, etc?

Posted by: Neil B ◙ on February 4, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

It's time for some "soaring rhetoric" from Obama on national TV. The Democrats have got to wrest this away from the Republicans. Forget hearing the baloney on Fux or Cretin's News Network - this morning NPR was busy promoting All Republicans All The Time with their lies and general bullshit.

Posted by: TCinLA on February 4, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

Obama is concerned about bipartisanship to the extent it can produce pragmatic, workable solutions, while the media conventional wisdom is concerned about bipartisanship purely for its own sake (why this so is a matter for another post).

I rarely disagree with Stefan, but I do here. The media conventional wisdom is concerned about bipartisanship purely for the sake of the Republican agenda. It doesn't chastise the Republicans for partisanship, even (especially?) if it obstructs a popular Democratic President and a popular Democratic agenda.

Posted by: Gregory on February 4, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

One percent of 18 months is less than one week. Every week the Republicans keep complaining about the bill reduces the payout over the next 18 months by more than one percent.

Posted by: tomj on February 4, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK
What's the chance that Charlie Gibson, and his ilk, listen?

It doesn't matter if Charlie Gibson and his ilk listen. It does matter if people watching the interviews, reading the transcripts, etc., listen.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 4, 2009 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

I rarely disagree with Stefan, but I do here.

Darling! Our first fight!

The media conventional wisdom is concerned about bipartisanship purely for the sake of the Republican agenda. It doesn't chastise the Republicans for partisanship, even (especially?) if it obstructs a popular Democratic President and a popular Democratic agenda.

Actually, I agree with this. Under the rules of the media game, Democrats are obstructionist when they oppose a popular president, while when Republicans do the same thing it shows they are bold and independent. Similarly, when Democrats disagree with each other it's a sign of weakness and disarray, while when Republicans disagree with each other it shows a healthy ability to tolerate mavericks and that they have a big tent. And when Democrats all agree with each other, it's because of stifling conformity, while when Republicans all agree it's a sign of unity and strength.

Posted by: Stefan on February 4, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Under the rules of the media game, Democrats are obstructionist when they oppose a popular president

Hell, the Democrats were portrayed as obstructionist when they opposes an unpopular president.

Posted by: Gregory on February 4, 2009 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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