Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Using the George W Playbook

I’m thinking back to the beginning of the financial crisis, when Henry Paulson took his selected group of legislators into that closed room and threatened them with “tanks in the streets” if they did not hand him $700 billion to rescue the banks, and they came out with white faces and trembling hands and said that they were “waiting for the White House to send them a bill” to pass.

That’s how George W. Bush, well, probably Dick Cheney actually, ran our government. He didn’t sit back and hope that Congress would write a bill that he liked. He wrote the bill as he wanted it, sent it to Congress, and then pounded on the bully pulpit and demanded “Pass this bill.”

Think Military Commissions Act, think Patriot Act, think immunity for the telecomms. Think TARP as his parting gift, with its $700 billion because, “That’s the biggest number that we could think of that seemed to make sense.” As if it did make sense.

Now Obama has taken a page out of George W’s book and has written a “jobs bill” the way he wants it, has sent it to Congress, and is on the stump screaming “Pass this bill” to anyone who will listen.

I’m not sure how to react to that. Part of me wants to cheer him on, as in it’s about time he picked a fight with that idiotic, useless Congress and did something worthwhile and actually liberal. But I can’t ignore that he is running for reelection, and can’t help seeing this more as a campaign stunt than as actual policy. I keep thinking he’s finally leading on policy, but then I see a clip of him in Podunk, waving his arms and yelling “Pass this bill,” and I realize that no, he’s campaigning, and I hit the “fast forward” button.

And he didn’t even read the George W playbook all the way through, because part of this particular play is that W always said that the bill had to be passed precisely as it was written and that if Congress altered the bill in any way, or deleted any portion of it before passing it, he would veto it. Obama told reporters on Monday that if Congress passed any portion of the bill, he would sign whatever portion they passed.

That just leaves me speechless.

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