Political Animal


October 18, 2011 1:30 PM If only Snowe’s actions met her misplaced rhetoric

By Steve Benen

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner talked to the Senate Small Business Committee, urging its members to approve jobs measures proposed by the White House. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), ostensibly Congress’ most moderate Republican and the member most likely to listen to reason, went on quite a tirade.

“Your primary mission is to craft the economic policy of this country, and at this point, it simply isn’t working,” she told Geithner. “Something’s gone terribly wrong, and what I hear over and over again is that there is no tempo, a tempo of urgency.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking to…but you need to talk to the average person,” she said later in a testy back and forth with Geithner. “Rome is burning.”

I’m delighted Snowe is pretending to care about the economy. I’m also delighted she thinks she’s in touch with what “average” people want, and would like to see policymakers to act with “urgency.”

But if Olympia Snowe thinks her actions are consistent with her rhetoric, she’s sadly mistaken.

We are, after all, talking about the alleged moderate from Maine who, just last week, voted with right-wing senators to refuse a debate on the popular and effective American Jobs Act. She’s the same senator who’s refused to endorse any of the provisions in the bill, no matter how much they’d help. What was that she was saying about “urgency”?

Snowe thinks Geithner is responsible for crafting the nation’s economic policy? Here’s a radical idea: maybe if Snowe could bring herself to stop filibustering worthwhile economic legislation, Geithner might have more success.

“Rome is burning”? And who, exactly, does Snowe believe is responsible? The party with good economic ideas that can’t overcome Republican obstructionism, or the party engaged in the obstructionist tactics, offering ideas that would make the economy worse, and by some accounts, holding back the nation deliberately?

Snowe seems to believe the status quo isn’t working. On this, she’s correct. But it’s not working because Republicans are getting their way.

In what universe does it make sense for Snowe to blame Geithner? Snowe and Republicans got the tax cuts they demanded; Snowe and Republicans saw the stimulus spending evaporate, just as they wanted; Snowe and Republicans are watching the public sector lay off hundreds of thousands of workers, just as GOP policy dictates; and Snowe and Republicans have forced the White House to accept massive spending cuts, which takes money out of the economy on purpose.

And now she’s complaining? Why, because her party is getting what it wants and she doesn’t like the results?

Arguably one of the most dramatic Democratic dilemmas of 2011 and 2012 is overcoming the realization that Republicans are getting their way on economic policy and then denying any responsibility for the results. Indeed, it’s a rather extraordinary con: GOP officials see much of their agenda implemented, then see it fail, and then blame Obama when their policies don’t work.

The nation is reading from the Republicans’ economic playbook, and thanks in part to Snowe’s filibusters, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. When the GOP agenda fails, Republicans should be prepared to accept responsibility for the consequences, instead of pretending they’re not getting their way.

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.


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  • TR on October 18, 2011 1:34 PM:

    Call her and complain. (202) 224-5344

  • Schtick on October 18, 2011 1:41 PM:

    What in hell is in that koolaid the tealiban is serving up? Give that woman a ticket to the OWS in NYC with a freaking hearing aid and then buy her a clue-by-four.

    crapcha....nuestruc sina....bull. it ain't new.

  • Anonymous on October 18, 2011 1:47 PM:

    Wow, she's moderate, reasonable and intelligent alright. If I were Geithner, which I am not thank Gawd, I would put my foot up her hoo-hoo.

  • mk3873 on October 18, 2011 1:48 PM:

    And until Geithner and the admin say exactly what u just said, the GOP will win this argument.

  • Danp on October 18, 2011 1:50 PM:

    Rome is burning? That's an interesting metaphor. What does she expect Geithner to do? Stop enforcing bank regulations so the flames will die down?

  • c u n d gulag on October 18, 2011 1:54 PM:

    Yes, Rome is burning.

    And almost ALL of us are on fire.

    But the Conservatives won't even piss on us to help us out.

    The faster and brighter we burn, the more they feel like Rome will be theirs.

    And Senator Snowe - look in the f*cking mirror. You were a large part of the problem - never of the solution. So STFU!

    You're looking at an America that YOU helped burn down.

    I'm surprised you're bitching. I'd have thought you'd be doing high-five's with the rest of your evil party!

  • kindness on October 18, 2011 1:55 PM:

    mk3873 is right. I know confronting a sitting Senator with facts of their own voting may go against 'comity' but until Republicans start tasting their own just desserts, they won't stop the gambit they've conned the media into accepting.

    Hey Democrats! Stop being polite. Start being accurate, even when it is uncomfortable.

  • SteveW on October 18, 2011 1:56 PM:

    The only really interesting question posed by her "blame Geithner" tirade is, is she just stupid, is she in deep deep denial about reality, or is it all just a pose and she knows she's full of BS?

  • Tanya on October 18, 2011 1:56 PM:

    She's talking & acting that way because she scare of the t-party response to her reelection (even though she just went through a election) and their no force on the democrat, indep. or prof. left side. Which she feel who can challenge her...

    What this 2012 election should be about is not just targeting democrats but also, republicans... What are the people in Maine feel about her? That the question..
    And what are the DNC, Prof. Left, & Independents are doing in Maine?

  • walt on October 18, 2011 1:58 PM:

    It's always a guessing game whether the pol is an idiot out of ignorance or calculation. I think in Snowe's case it's the latter. She's up for re-election next year and the Tea Party has been busy nipping at her heels. If nothing else, dressing down Geithner will make a good ad in a GOP primary.

    Still, this points out the problem with so-called moderates. If you're in a radical party, there is less space to be rational. Maine's two senators walk a tightrope and it's getting stretched to the breaking point.

  • max on October 18, 2011 2:09 PM:

    Snowe is running against a possible tea party challenge in 2012. Polling in Maine 16 months ago showed only 31% of Republicans supported her, but I assume she is closing the gap by tacking right. I wouldn't pay much attention to anything she says until after the election.

  • Davis X. Machina on October 18, 2011 2:14 PM:

    Snowe could win as as an independent by greater margins than she wins as a Republican. The Senate seat isn't the issue. She is the Republican party in Maine. Her husband was the last non-Tea Party GOP governor. Her ex-staffers are everywhere in state government.

    The institutional GOP here abandoned Gov. 38% LePage within months of his being sworn in. She intends to ride out the tea party nonsense and emerge as a national leader in the post-apocalyptic GOP remnant.

    And you can't do that from outside the party.

  • martin on October 18, 2011 2:16 PM:

    The only really interesting question posed by her "blame Geithner" tirade is, is she just stupid, is she in deep deep denial about reality, or is it all just a pose and she knows she's full of BS?

    Or was she just handed a script and read it?

  • T2 on October 18, 2011 2:17 PM:

    quit trying to wish Snowe and Collings into "moderate, we can work with them" GOPers.
    Just like the rest of them, they are more concerned with keeping their job than helping solve the nations problems - problems that they helped create.

  • square1 on October 18, 2011 2:18 PM:

    A battle of two incompetents trying to pass the buck.

    It is worth noting that the primary purpose of the hearing was not to discuss the jobs bill. The purpose was for the committee to provide oversight over a small-business lending program that was already approved and which Geithner is tasked with overseeing. So how has Geithner done?

    the $30 billion lending fund established by Congress to provide funds to small banks that in turn would use them for small-business lending...closed up shop in September after distributing just over $4 billion to 332 banks, well short of its capacity.

    Geithner had to fend off criticisms from both sides of the aisle over how long it took for the lending fund to get up and running � the program didn't dole out any money until nine months after it began.

    Sure, we can all have a laugh at what a hypocrite and a fool Snowe is. But before we dismiss the criticisms out of hand maybe we should consider what all sides have to say.

    I mean, Steve Benen was just complaining about a lock of media balance. And here Benen is only reporting on what a GOP Senator said. Maybe, for balance, we should ask how the Democrats viewed Geithner's performance:

    Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) complained that small banks faced tougher scrutiny to line up funds than some of Wall Street's biggest institutions.

    "The big banks, they got access to capital in about 10 seconds," she said.

    Oops! That's awkward. Sounds like Cantwell has a point though.

    Hmmm, I wonder why Benen chose to ignore the legitimate criticism.

  • danimal on October 18, 2011 2:29 PM:

    Time to engage my inner-Yglesias and remind everyone of one simple, incontrovetible fact. Olympia Snowe is one of the 100 people in the entire nation able to do something about this.

    She has agency. She is fully capable of putting together a plan with majority support and pass it in the Senate. Her failure to do so is not Timothy Geitner's (or President Obama's) problem. It's hers.

  • doubtful on October 18, 2011 2:36 PM:

    I didn't know that Snowe played the fiddle.

  • PTate in MN on October 18, 2011 2:36 PM:

    If Rome is burning, then it is the Republican Neros who are fiddling.

    Snowe is a huge disappointment. The people she represents in Maine should be ashamed of her. She has been in a position to be brave, to be a leader, to help Americans, and, instead, she just conforms to the crazies and whines.

  • stormskies on October 18, 2011 2:37 PM:

    And after her tirade she got in her limousine and was driven to her millionaire home within a gate community with it's own security force, and then took a hot shower in a 1000 square foot bathroom with gold plated faucets and the like, and then had her asshole wiped by a servant who pays more in taxes than she does.

  • MNRD on October 18, 2011 3:32 PM:

    Virtually the entire Congressional wing of the Republican Party is either instigating or going along with a deliberate attempt to crush the recovery and pin the blame on the administration. This is now standard accepted conduct within the Republican Party.

    It should be viscerally taboo for lawmakers to deliberately crush an economic recovery for the political benefit of their own party or faction. The public should have reacted with overwhelming visceral repulsion toward the Republicans for the Republicans' celebration of the damage they caused with the debt ceiling scandal. But the reaction was more diffuse. Although the scandal was completely the doing of the Republicans - and although the Republicans celebrated the consequences of their scandal - much of the blame got transferred onto the President.

    We have to change this. Just as our predecessors in the Civil Rights movement made Jim Crow behaviors and attitudes taboo, we need to make Debt Ceiling Scandal behaviors and attitudes taboo.

  • Hannah on October 18, 2011 3:58 PM:

    square1: I, too, read the accompanying article since I have a personal interest in this program. My senator was the one who pushed it through, I was in the Senate Gallery when the bill was approved, plus my spouse works for a community bank, which benefits from the program. Much as I dislike Geithner, you left out his answers, namely that of the $30B, banks applied for only 1/3 of the funds ($10B), then half of those banks were disqualified by regulators (I'm glad they checked before just handing it out).

    From article:
    Defending the program, Geithner identified issues that fell out of the Treasury's control. For one, banks applied for only one-third of the available funds.

    "We can't force banks to come," he said.

    Furthermore, banking regulators were charged with weighing the strength of the banks applying for the program: half of those applicants did not meet the criteria for the program, limiting its reach.

    "We had to be careful to make sure that taxpayers' resources were going to banks that were viable," he said.

    Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who chairs the committee, also defended the program and the challenges it faced.

    "I will remind everyone that this was an entirely unique program," she said. "The Treasury did not have a readily available road map, and one took time to develop."

  • Hannah on October 18, 2011 4:11 PM:

    To add to my prior post, Olympia Snowe voted NO on the bill that was discussed in the hearing (loaning money to smaller banks so they could lend to small business since the too big to fail banks couldn't be bothered). The bill passed 61-38 on 9/16/10. Only two Repubs voted yes, Voinovich and Lemieux. All Dems plus Sanders and Lieberman voted yes.

    H.R. 5297 (Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010):
    An act to create the Small Business Lending Fund Program to direct the Secretary of the Treasury to make capital investments in eligible institutions in order to increase the availability of credit for small businesses, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide tax incentives for small business job creation, and for other purposes

  • Doug on October 18, 2011 8:43 PM:

    Hannah, thank you for providing a factual-based post!
    Pity you had to do so in response to one sorely lacking such basic requirements...

  • square1 on October 18, 2011 10:47 PM:

    Doug: We aren't disputing facts. I know that Snowe is full of crap. But so what? Snowe wasn't the only person questioning Geithner's performance.

    I am not impressed with the intellectual honesty of people who act outraged over Snowe while defending corporate douchebags like Geithner and Landrieu.

    Like an increasing number of Democrats, I have little interest in engaging in partisan Democratic cheerleading for its own sake.

  • Doug on October 19, 2011 8:29 PM:

    "I have little interest in engaging in partisan Democratic cheerleading for its own sake." suqare1 @ 10:47 PM

    Apparently you prefer to engage in what you think is some sort of "gotcha" by comparing apples, the 2008 Wall Street crisis, to oranges, the creation of a $30 billion dollar fund for smaller banks. The former was done to prevent a catastophe, the latter to, hoepfully, shore up and expand a weak recovery. This is equivalent?
    Nor have you responded to Hannah's post concerning the facts behind WHY only $10 billion was expended. I'll wait...

  • Hannah on October 20, 2011 4:26 PM:

    Wow, is it too late to respond? square1, I hope you realize I was in no way defending Snowe, in fact I noted that she voted no on the bill that they were discussing in the hearing. Were she thinking of her constituents she would have voted in favor. I also indicated that I dislike Geithner though it sounds like he handled the details of this lending program correctly (if his explanation is to be believed). I sure don't like many of his other decisions...

    While I didn't express an opinion on Landrieu, yes, she is a corporate shill, but has her moments of doing the right thing and we should encourage such behavior.