Political Animal


August 11, 2011 7:30 AM On the teevee

By Steve Benen

Yesterday, we talked about a new approach to public investment, intended to generate at least some support from congressional Republicans. The pitch is pretty straightforward: have the White House take the several hundred letters GOP lawmakers have sent to the executive branch since 2009, asking for public investments, followed by President Obama announcing he’ll gladly fund all of the Republicans’ requests that have not yet been filled.

The point, of course, is to bring together the GOP demand for funding job-creating projects (in their states and districts) and the Democratic demand to give the economy an immediate boost. Republicans submitted the requests for public investments; all officials have to do now is approve them.

As it turns out, Rachel Maddow liked my idea, and she and I talked about it last night on the air. If you missed it, here’s the clip:

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Just a couple of things to note. First, I know I talk too fast, so there’s no need to point this out. Second, I’m not quite this pale in real life, but the lights are unflattering.

And third, long-time readers will note the absence of the fake-book backdrop, which came as something of a relief to me.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • steve duncan on August 11, 2011 7:58 AM:

    All Republicans have to claim is A) this is a cheap stunt, B) the economics of stimulus spending aren't what they were way back in 2009 (two generations in Bank Years) and C) Obama jerks off to pictures of Bin Laden.

    Look for the Crazy Train, coming soon to a city near you!!!!

  • Live Free or Die on August 11, 2011 8:00 AM:

    Congratulations Steve. You did well. You should get your own show. Maddow admitted that she reads your blog daily. My only disagreement with what you said was that I think Obama should talk about bridges and roads, not evil "stimulus".

  • Rich2506s on August 11, 2011 8:12 AM:

    My only suggested provision is that Republicans who don't vote for the plan, shouldn't get anything for their districts. Don't know whether you'd have to write a 500-page bill "If Congresscritter whoiswhatsis votes for this bill, then the following projects shall go forward: ..." or whether you could express that in general terms. But yeah, I'd like to see projects in Democratic districts go forward as well, under the theory of "one for all and all for one." But I think it's absolutely crucial for the President to NOT allow folks like Bobby Jindal to run around handing oversize checks drawn on stimulus money while at the same time, denouncing the stimulus as wasteful.

  • delNorte on August 11, 2011 8:22 AM:

    Take this a bit farther: in order for it to be "bipartisan" include an equal number of requests from Democrats.

    You could put them together in one bill, which Republicans might vote against, or make two bills - one with Republican requests, one with the requests of Democrats, and dare the Republicans to show their partisanship.

  • c u n d gulag on August 11, 2011 8:27 AM:

    You done GREAT!

    And I was wrong yesterday when I pooh-poohed the idea and said to do it instead in Democratic districts to drown 'their' beasts.

    It really is a great idea. WTF was I thinking? I like to think I'm more politically astute than that.

    Btw - Great tie, perfectly tied.

  • Tom Burka on August 11, 2011 8:27 AM:

    You don't even look the slightest bit pasty.

  • Extreme Liberal on August 11, 2011 8:30 AM:

    You were awesome Steve. Great job, I wish Rachel had spent less time repeating herself 4 or 5 times and gave you more time, but that was great. You need your own show on MSNBC. :) Bravo, bravo!

  • Anon on August 11, 2011 8:33 AM:

    Actually all the republicans have to do is oppose it, regardless of the face-melting hypocrisy. Dems will sit on their hands, Obama will blame "Washington", the media will chase whatever balls the Republicans throw at them as a distraction. And if someone does hold their feet to the fire on this the Republicans will as one decry the horrible partisanship and name-calling and then THAT will be the story.

  • FRP on August 11, 2011 8:40 AM:

    Rachel was great on Air America , the presentation this evening was quite repetitive .
    I made the effort to wait for Steve Benen at the 6 pain level . I suppose iterating the same point with details from , one , two , and three , after which I lost count and patience eight minutes into the presentation , is good TV .
    It was a cruel wait but great to see Mr Benen !
    If Rachel reads you every day her lingering in the comments is plain , one can see how her hammering a point has its roots .

  • Badger on August 11, 2011 8:45 AM:

    Most of the high quality wind resources are in predominantly Republican states like Nebraska, Wyoming, Texas and the Dakotas. Many of the solar resources are in Republican states as well. So why not propose a surge in investment in wind and solar?

  • square1 on August 11, 2011 8:50 AM:

    I am glad that Sam Stein covered this and he ably shows that Republicans are full of it when they say that government stimulus can't create jobs. In terms of advancing Keynes' economic theory, Stein does a good job.

    It is also telling that Stein had to make a FOIA request to obtain the documents. Karl Rove would have had them on blast fax to Drudge if the shoe was on the other foot. But the political incompetence of the White House is a matter for a different post.

    Having said all that, Steve Benen's idea to use the requests as the basis for actual legislation makes no sense for several reasons:

    1. It is politically a non-starter. Am I the only one who remembers that there is bipartisan consensus to chop trillions of dollars in federal spending? Even if Republicans didn't oppose it, there is no evidence that Democrats want another round of stimulus spending.

    2. It rewards Republicans for their behavior. Do we want to let Republicans try to destroy the economy and then reward them by throwing a life preserver to their districts? Uh, no thanks. If the Republicans are going to tank the economy then Bachmann's constitutents can go fuck themselves and their jobs.

    3. It isn't obvious that it is necessary to pass new bill to pay for these projects. The money can come out of the existing stimulus funds. The White House and their advisors are the ones who have been saying that it was hard to find places to spend stimulus money. They didn't need a permission slip from Congress to fulfill these requests. While Bachmann may be full of shit about whether the government can create jobs, she would be entirely justified in arguing that she was making the requests given that the stimulus had passed and the money was going to be spent somewhere anyway.

  • olie on August 11, 2011 8:54 AM:

    Great job on Maddow last night!

  • pol on August 11, 2011 9:06 AM:

    Great job, Steve! Also, congratulations that your idea was picked up and reverberated.

  • Brenna on August 11, 2011 9:07 AM:

    You did a wonderful job, Steve. I don't think you talk too fast and you didn't look that pale. You looked and sounded great.

    It was frustrating to watch though, sad in face, because it made so much sense and is such a good idea, yet it's not going to happen.

  • bdop4 on August 11, 2011 9:13 AM:

    They'll take the money and act like nothing has changed.

    Then they'll take the credit from their constituents and decry the Dems "tax and spend" economy. And after we've given them everything they want, they'll scream bloody murder if a dollar goes to a Dem project.

    And the media won't do a fucking thing.

    These people don't get irony and neither do their base. Their hypocrisy is totally lost on them. The only question is whether swing voters have the wattage to pull their heads out of their asses.

    I'm not holding my breath.

    It's brilliant to us, but we're already singing with the choir.

    Sorry, but I'm not in a very positive mood this morning. Hopefully, it will improve as the day progresses.

  • bdop4 on August 11, 2011 9:20 AM:

    I also agree with FRP that Rachel (god bless her), sometimes lets her legal training transform what would ordinarily be a 5-minute piece into a 15-minute legal argument to the "jury."

    Most (if not all) of the people watching her show already understand the dynamics at work. No need for repeated examples to "make her case."

  • Dave on August 11, 2011 9:39 AM:

    you type to fast, 2! :)

    Great job!

  • Grumpy on August 11, 2011 9:47 AM:

    square1: "2. It rewards Republicans for their behavior."

    This came up only briefly during the segment when Steve mentioned that Blue states should get their projects at some point. Under the rules of political hardball, Dems who play along would get their rewards first and obstructionist Republicans get nothing at all.

    The fact that Maddow can so easily say "yes!" and "approved!" shows we're playing by different rules. Or, it shows that Republicans are playing the ol' stimulus briar patch game.

  • DaveG on August 11, 2011 9:57 AM:

    Steve, you were great on the teevee! If you get your own show, please keep your day job.

  • Zorro on August 11, 2011 10:10 AM:

    Call it a rutabaga! Just call it done!


  • xpatriate on August 11, 2011 10:45 AM:

    No worries Steve. You rock--lights or speed talking can't diminish that one bit.

  • Catherine on August 11, 2011 10:49 AM:

    Steve, great idea and you look and sound terrific!

  • Jimo on August 11, 2011 11:14 AM:

    Interesting. But may I suggest something more radical - and more likely to accomplish a lot?

    Remember those platinum coins .....?

    Why don't we mint a trillion dollars of coins, deposit them with the Federal Reserve, and then use the money to pay for infrastructure, job training, state and local gov't support for whichever ones will accept the cash.

    No, I'm not forgetting that Congress hasn't budgeted this spending.

    I'm saying ignore that.

    I don't know what Constitutional theory to pursue (surely there's some sort of 'unified executive' or 'uncheckable commander in chief' theory laying around still from the Bush Administration). I acknowledge there's no express grant of such authority ... just likes there's no hint that Senate approval of bills requires any more than 50 votes. Maybe the marketing people will label it a dividend - "paying dividends to Americans."

    But ... who is going to sue? Who would have standing to sue? What exactly would be the harm alleged? "They built a bridge in my state"?

    I suppose the House might impeach but who cares? The Senate won't convict and Obama will be spending his days traveling around the country, cutting ribbons, driving bulldozers, shakes hands with newly employed Americans.

  • Barb on August 11, 2011 11:17 AM:

    Was wonderful to see you on RMS last night...Excellent idea, as usual, and I thought you looked and sounded great. I agree with other commets about Rachel's repetition, but it's so good to regularly have an intelligent and reasoned progressive on the box, that I'll forgive her this.

  • JS on August 11, 2011 12:45 PM:

    People here might remember that Maddow's audience is better informed than average, but they don't all follow political blogs. It's repetitive to us who read Steve post about Republican obstruction and hypocrisy in a hundred different instances, but Rachel is playing to an audience that needs some education.

    Plus it's television, that's something of a goofy, geeky shtick of hers. I watch because she's doing stories you won't hear elsewhere (on TV), or at least not for months - I'm thinking of her heavy coverage of the C Street House/"The Family" as an example. Also, "John Boehner is really bad at his job" started in March - not the last month or so when the rest of the media finally started to notice that he didn't have control of his caucus.

  • Les Ismore on August 11, 2011 1:31 PM:

    Great to put a face to the best blogger on the planet!

  • Terry Gibson on August 11, 2011 4:21 PM:

    Great to see you in person on Maddow show. Heard about your blog from Rachel some time ago. You are one of the more perceptive, insightful political bloggers. We viewers aren't watching your complexion or your speech patterns. We are listening to your "take" on politics. Keep returning to TV and keep those excellent articles and comments coming.

  • Joan Katherine Shaw on August 11, 2011 5:16 PM:

    Steve, you were great. You DON'T speak too fast, you had great color on the show, and yes, I also liked the plain background! So those library-like backgrounds that we see all the time are fake? I thought that perhaps they had a special room to stash their guests in.

    I think your idea is a great one and I hope it's acted upon. Besides, it would give some of these two-faced characters a good cold bath of we-see-you.

  • Tomas on August 11, 2011 7:23 PM:

    Agree with other folks that the clip should have had more Steve and less Rachel; but well done!

  • Joan F on August 11, 2011 9:14 PM:

    It was nice to see your face. Rachel is the one who turned me on to your blog, she has great admiration for your views. Keep it up, we need all the strong voices on the left that we can find.

  • Ozzie on August 12, 2011 12:27 AM:

    If you get a show on television, I'll get television in my house. Deal?