Republicans aren’t the only people growing disenchanted by Hope and Change through Incompetence, it seems. Evan Bayh, who got passed over as Obama’s running mate, has formed a new Gang of 15 in the Senate, only this gang is exclusively Democrats. They want to put some speed limits on Obama’s agenda:
There is rising doubt among Democrats — particularly moderates already concerned about the big costs and deficits called for in Obama’s budget — that either Obama or Washington have enough bandwidth this year to stimulate the economy, overhaul the failed financial sector and move on to a far-reaching domestic agenda.
“From the standpoint of the Congress, there’s only so much that we can absorb and do at one time,” Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, told POLITICO Tuesday. “To maintain a schedule like the one we’ve got at this moment, throughout the year, I don’t know if it will be healthy.”
Democrats’ comments were muted, with few directly criticizing Obama for being too ambitious. But several lawmakers made clear that they have trouble with Obama’s logic that deep economic troubles make it more urgent, not less, to take on expensive projects such as health care and education reform.
“Everybody has to bring something to the table,” said Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, a leader of a 15-member caucus of conservative and centrist Democrats. “That doesn’t mean that you have to postpone your aspirations forever. But until we’re through this crisis and growth has resumed, there’s going to be some belt-tightening that’s necessary.”
These doubts reflect conflicting currents in Obama’s political circumstances just 60 days into his administration.
Bayh launched this effort on MS-NBC’s Morning Joe program this morning, telling viewers that concerns have risen about the direction of the administration already. Coming from Obama’s own party, that’s remarkable in a couple of ways. First, Democrats have near-total control already of the process, and have already found enough Republicans to get around any procedural roadblocks. They don’t need to do any outreach to the Republicans or centrists in order to get their agenda through Congress.
Even more surprising is the timing. The media has engaged in a little self-flaggelation for not giving Obama the supposedly traditional 100 days to demonstrate competence and fully shape the agenda. Now, even Obama’s own party has called off the honeymoon. Bayh and his fellow gang members have seen enough already to set off the alarm bells.
This will make it much more difficult for Obama to sell himself as a moderate, both in the midterms and in 2012. When one’s own party has to have its moderates differentiate themselves from White House policy, it makes the President look extremist and intemperate. Bayh will also force the media to cover that angle, where (as with the Hamilton appointment) they might prefer to parrot the administration’s self-congratulatory messages of their own moderation.
Perhaps Obama should have selected Bayh for his running mate after all. It didn’t make a difference in the last election, but it might make a difference in the next.
Update: Here’s the Morning Joe video:
Try to catch all the Mafia references. Dead fishes, Witness Protection Programs, body bags … is this the White House, or a compound on Lake Tahoe?