Obama vs. McCain: Round 2


You could be forgiven for thinking John McCain might want to lick his wounds and move on to a quieter elder statesman role within the Republican party. But think again. It is not in the McCain genes to step aside from the battle. On Face The Nation last Sunday, Bob Scheiffer introduced McCain as a major opponent of the Obama stimulus package. The Arizona senator, in typical fashion, went on to explain in moderate terms his opposition to the size of the package, the “massive spending” involved, and his belief that “America needs a stimulus… but this is not it.” It was classic McCain. Sober in tone, conciliatory in his choice of words and, above all, calling as usual for a bipartisan solution. He indicated that the Obama approach, while appearing bipartisan, was not that different from how the Bush White House operated. Ouch.

The McCain of the presidential campaign has finally been replaced by the McCain of old, the one whose appeal so often crossed party lines. It is not without effect. Republicans are temporarily emboldened. The package which will pass the Senate and go to a compromise conference will not be the same bill that was originally introduced. Spending has been cut and tax cuts increased. Yet, it will most likely not get the endorsement of a sufficient number of Republicans for it to be considered a bipartisan product.

Barack Obama is fully cognizant of this. He has taken to the road and is utilizing the traditional presidential bully pulpit to make his case. Obama’s approval ratings are hovering around 75 % and he is trying to leverage this support for a package that, prior to yesterday’s press conference, was supported by 54% of Americans. Clearly,  Obama wishes he could get bipartisan support for it, but he is aware that he has the votes to make it happen one way or another. The transformational leader is now heavily engaged in transactional politics. This is a test of his leadership. He will stare the GOP down if it threatens to filibuster as job losses reach record numbers. If Obama succeeds in boosting popular support for the stimulus bill, you can bet it will pass within days .

That said, it is healthy for this debate to be as heated as it is has been. Charges of excessive partisanship and old-style Washington power plays are par for the course. Obama cannot in three weeks undo three decades of  polarized politics. In the process, Republicans are rediscovering some of the tenets of their old time religion: tax cuts, lower spending, an aversion to deficits, and a desire for smaller government. The knock on the party these days is that, outside of tax cuts for the rich, the GOP has drifted far from conservative principles over the past two decades. Under Reagan and the two Bushes, record deficits were recorded. Yes, Republicans are hypocritical in this debate. But some—like McCain—have been consistent through the years. If the real conservative values once again come to dominate the GOP, then this exercise will have been worthwhile.

At the end of the day, Obama will win this battle and, in doing so, will take round two against McCain. The era of blatant deregulation, inequitable tax cuts, and unpopular wars based on fabrications will give way to an era where government can be the solution sometimes—but not all the time.

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Obama vs. McCain: Round 2

  1. That said, it is healthy for this debate to be as heated as it is has been.

    This debate has been heated, but could hardly be described as “healthy”. The Republican strategy has clearly been to cause as much political damage to Obama as possible. They’ve succeeded to some degree through their usual noxious demagoguery, bullshit, distortions, blind ideology and outright lies.

    Some examples off the top of my head (paraphrasing various Republican leaders):

    – ‘This is the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Recession’ (the recession actually began in Oct 2007)
    – ‘Government has never created a single job’
    – ‘These are the policies that created the Great Depression’ (actually, failing to continue stimulus policies just as they started to have an effect made the Great Depression truly Great)
    – ‘This isn’t a stimulus bill, it’s a spending bill’
    – ‘Only 75 percent of the money can be spent in two years, therefore 25% is wasted!’
    – ‘One in five of these jobs will be GOVERNMENT jobs!’

    Either the entire Republican party is utterly without any understanding of economics whatsoever (don’t rule this out) or this is a purely political strategy of propaganda and ratfuckery at a time when the US economy desperately needs support. Either way, these people are unfit to occupy their seats.

    Republicans are rediscovering some of the tenets of their old time religion: tax cuts, lower spending, an aversion to deficits, and a desire for smaller government.

    You mean they’ve discovered their old messages of lower taxes, fiscal responsibility and smaller government. You don’t seriously think that right-wing politicians actually believe in those things, do you? Every Republican administration in my lifetime has delivered precisely the opposite of fiscal responsibility and smaller government. They’ve delivered on lower taxes (a great election tool) by borrowing by the trillion.

    • When the defacto leader of the Republicans is the parolee Rush Limbaugh , it’s irrational to expect rationality.

      • insulting Rush does nothing to advance the debate. He is at least looking out for the little guy .We have to be careful not to make things worse .

        • ’nuff said.

        • The only ‘guy’ Rush is looking out for is himself. And he ain’t little. Plus, Joe, no need to insult jwl by comparing to Rush. Sheesh.

  2. “It was classic McCain.”

    He was full of shit? But with an odd ability to dazzle half-wit journalists?

  3. “The knock on the party these days is that, outside of tax cuts for the rich, the GOP has drifted far from conservative principles over the past two decades.”

    What so many people seem to forget is that the president does not write the budget, Congress does. If you look at Newt’s ’94 revolution, which lead to surpluses that Clinton took credit for, repubs did ok. But repubs did completely lose the plot after Bush election in 2000 and were rightfully punished a few years later.

    I don’t understand what’s happening with Dems/Obama. They have overwhelming majorities in both House and Senate yet they are still dallying around trying to attract a few repubs. It is almost like they know the stimulus bill is a stinker that’s going to hurt Americans more than anything else and they are looking for ‘bi-partisan’ cover.

    And TJ Cook, it was FDR and his policies that put the Great in the Depression of the ’30s. And the depression would have continued if the Europeans didn’t go to war which the Americans saw as an opportunity to become the arsenal to the world.

    • jwl sounds as smart as Rush . I agree with you.

      • And I agree with you.

      • No need to insult jwl there joe.

    • I think JWL, is that Obama is trying to be true to his campaign and get bipartisan support. He doesn’t need to get GOP support, but he wants to at least make a good show of trying to get it. I’m sure this strategy will be abandoned in due time. But it’s pretty clever, as he can now point to the Republicans as the ones not wanting to share toys….

      I agree with John that it’s the return of the old McCain. Hmm, if only that McCain had run for president….

    • jwl: The Senate Republican minority has filibustered nearly all legislation since losing their majority in 2006. There’s good reason to believe they’d do the same thing again.

      Besides, if subjected to their own tactics the Republican minority would scream bloody murder. Better to go through the inclusionary motions up front. That said, I’m pretty frustrated that these screaming little nancys are being accommodated at all, especially given the sheer insanity of their proposals.

      And neither you nor I are equipped to debate the causes of the Great Depression. But surely you acknowledge that there’s a school of thought – representing a plurality, if not a majority of current economists – that continued Keynesian spending would have closed the Depression much sooner. Instead the stimulus was scaled back before the economy was fully primed. To blame FDR like that is just facile, ideologically-driven right-wing talking points.

      • JWL is completely out in left field . I mean right field . FDR just like Obama inherited a mess. Broken down economics. The right wingers are good at messing things up , take the handouts,benefit from recovery and then bitch again against government. These guys have no shame. JWL , Rush Limbaugh and even McCain feed us this right wing crap . I was once there ,actually voted Bush but I have seen the light . These guys are hypocrits . They are a danger and they should never be trusted again .

        I was slow on Obama . Would have liked Clinton but this guy is impressing me.
        As for McCain , John ,he chose Palin. That says it all. Old or new ,same old thing !

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