Now that the election and inauguration have put Barack Obama in the White House, many people have expressed relief at returning to policy rather than party politics. Don’t count the Washington Post among them. Despite constant reminders of the dire economic straits in the US and abroad and the trillion-plus price tag of Obama’s policies, Paul Kane lectures us from the front page that disagreement on the stimulus is “petty”:
Just days after taking office vowing to end the political era of “petty grievances,” President Obama ran into mounting GOP opposition yesterday to an economic stimulus plan that he had hoped would receive broad bipartisan support.
How did that lede get past an editor? First, it adopts Obama’s rather odd argument that the “era” preceding his inauguration had no other disagreements other than “petty grievances”. That is a strange concept, since for most of the Bush administration, the Democrats were in the minority. An entire era of nothing but “petty grievances” would have meant that it was the Democrats who were petty, and not the Republicans. Was the debate over Iraq, tax policy, energy production, and national security not substantial at all?
Kane continues in the same vein:
Republicans accused Democrats of abandoning the new president’s pledge, ignoring his call for bipartisan comity and shutting them out of the process by writing the $850 billion legislation. The first drafts of the plan would result in more spending on favored Democratic agenda items, such as federal funding of the arts, they said, but would do little to stimulate the ailing economy.
The GOP’s shrunken numbers, particularly in the Senate, will make it difficult for Republicans to stop the stimulus bill, but the growing GOP doubts mean that Obama’s first major initiative could be passed on a largely party-line vote — little different from the past 16 years of partisan sniping in the Clinton and Bush eras.
No kidding, Sherlock. The two parties differ significantly on the role of government and its relationship with the private sector. Economic philosophies matter to both the Left and the Right, which means that debate and dissent will occur. That doesn’t automatically make it petty, especially when we consider the scope of the plan. We’re not arguing over a $100,000 earmark — we’re debating a $1,000,000,000,000 disgorgement of public funds that we don’t have and we’re not likely to get until our grandchildren are ready to retire.
And it doesn’t get much better the farther into the story one goes:
Republicans have a long list of grievances.
Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who gave Vice President Biden a 17-page list of spending requests, said he opposes the proposed increase in funding for Pell Grants for college students because it would do little to spur short-term economic growth. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) said the plan lacks enough “fast-acting tax relief,” such as a temporary halt to payroll taxes and more relief for businesses. Sen. John Thune (S.D.) said the nearly $1 trillion price tag would add too much to a federal deficit that is already predicted to top $1.2 trillion for 2009.
Not disagreement, not objections on principle, but “grievances”. Not only does this again accept unquestioningly Obama’s construct and imply pettiness from the earlier reference, but it’s just bad writing. Doesn’t the Post have a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus handy?
The objections from Republicans are substantive and unanswered. If Obama wants bipartisanship on any economic plan, then he’d better get used to working more closely with Republicans than he has on this. It appears that Kane and the Post have accepted the Democratic definition of “bipartisanship”, which means “surrendering principles and agreeing with Democrats.” (via The Corner and Jonah Goldberg)