The Republican Reaction to the Stimulus Plan: No One Could Have Predicted?

While I’m reasonably happy with the passed version of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, I’m still having deja vu all over again (to steal Yogi Berra’s phrase) regarding Obama’s attempt at bipartisanship. Virtually every Democrat, regardless if they were liberal or conservative, and a bunch of Democratic-leaning independents that I know, not to mention the entire Democratic-oriented blogosphere (which includes people who are definitely not liberals or leftists) realized what would happen with Obama’s call for bipartisanship:

  1. Democrats would negotiate away lots of things, even before the negotiations actually begin.
  2. Republicans would screech and fling shit around like a bunch of crazed monkeys.
  3. Democrats would make even more concessions.
  4. Republicans would then refuse to support the bill anyway.

It reached the point where bloggers were sarcastically using phrases like “No one could have predicted…” and “Lucy and the football” (a reference to the character of Lucy in the cartoon Peanuts who always promises Charlie Brown that she won’t pull away the football when he’s trying to kick, and then proceeds to do so). This was so goddamn obvious.
What I don’t get is why the Obama administration actually believed that the Republicans would behave any differently than they have in the last decade. Ever. I don’t believe for a moment that this was some deep strategy: Obama and company got hosed, and Pelosi pulled their nuts out of the fire (chief of staff Emanuel has admitted as much).
What makes this all the more astonishing is that both Obama and Emanuel have spent considerable time in politics. How could they have not seen this coming? Did they really believe their own bullshit?
But at least they seem to have learned their lessons. If Jamison Foser is right, the national political press corps(e?) still hasn’t.
That’s why I referred to deja vu: this is prognostication that was far worse than the run-up to the Iraqi War. Iraq was much harder–people were screwed by 9/11, it’s a different culture and country and so on. But how could pundits miss the predictable and predicted Republican response, which occurred literally in their backyard? There are no cultural differences, no language barriers. They still, with few exceptions, realize that, with this GOP, there can be no bipartisan efforts.
The mind boggles.
So why do you think this is so?

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18 Responses to The Republican Reaction to the Stimulus Plan: No One Could Have Predicted?

  1. I think what happened to Obama was similar to what happened to George Bush, albeit with the cast of characters swapped. Bush, recall, was known as a bipartisan governor able to get Democrats and Republicans together. But those were Texas Democrats, a completely different animal than the national variety in Washington. Likewise, Obama’s experiences with Republicans in Illinois and the senate did not prepare him for dealing with Republican house members who have to answer to their narrow interests.
    Or maybe he just had to give them one, so he could rightly work around them next time. “I tried to be bipartisan…”

  2. Dude, these pundits didn’t “miss” anything. In order to “miss” something, you need to have been looking for it. The mainstream pundits sit on their flabby asses waiting for PR flacks shilling for various corporate fascist interests to provide them with daily talking points, and then they churn out their toxic “While some say that blah, blah, blah, others say that bleh, bleh, bleh”.

  3. Joe Shelby says:

    When a history of (bad) behavior is so standardized that a fictional tv show can present it and nobody notices anything was “wrong” about it, it’s gone too far.
    I’ve been watching past eps of The West Wing with my wife for the last month, and *several* stories have featured exactly this theme.
    One, the budget crisis, had the Reps negotiating with the staff, leave with a settlement, and come back the next day to tell the President the terms had changed completely as if the previous day never happened at all, as a near perfect re-enactment of the Clinton-Gingrich budget wars of 1995.

  4. Greg says:

    I think the left is missing a very important part of what this administration is about. Obama believes that the act of drafting law benefits from vigorous, and in this case, partisan debate. First it puts politicians on record and how they fall on very important issues. Second it tests your beliefs and proposed law from every angle. Third it produces data points that people can study and analyze. The fact matters that Obama gains so much more putting out his hand and seeing it slapped than to not put it out at all. He shows graciousness. He learns who is allies are and sets precedent. We learned something very useful in just three weeks into his presidency: the gop strategy going forward. And in the end , Obama passed the largest spending bill of my generation, showed the hipocracy of the GOP, started funding for a host of left-leaning programs like science and education, and in ridiculously unprecented time. This is a major victory for the left. And unless the GOP has actual aspirations to be oppositional Taliban extremists, they are going to have to learn to play ball with this president.

  5. Oran Kelley says:

    Taking a look at this from the standpoint of outcome, and considering the intransigence of the Republicans, what do you think might have been accomplished?
    My thinking is that the bill we’ve got is pretty much what was possible and that any sort of “take it to the people” strategy was likely to end up coming up even shorter–because most folks just don’t understand what a stimulus package is and what it’s supposed to do.
    All of the “household finance” analogues heavily favor the Republicans–see, for instance, the Republican editorial in the NYT on Friday.
    The spending of the New Deal–also probably too little–was also way too late. Depression started in 1929, New Deal:1933. And the only reason that spending got passed was because the country had already experienced 2 years of awful, no-hope conditions.
    The Democrats don’t have their 60 and the Republicans will make them pay a toll for that.
    Maybe Obama didn’t look rough and tough enough for you in this battle, but I didn’t vote for him so he could be my leftist superhero: I voted for him to get the possible outcomes I want. In this case I think he did OK.

  6. Moopheus says:

    Maybe the Democrats assumed that now that the Republicans were the minority party, they’d behave the way Democrats did when the Democrats were the minority party: like craven spineless weasels that caved in to every administration demand. Or maybe now that they’re in the majority, they haven’t figured out yet that they don’t have to be craven spineless weasels now. Or maybe craven spinelessness is now so embedded into the party leadership, there’s no other way for them to be, and we won’t get any change until there’s a new generation.
    Personally, I don’t think this stimulus bill–or any stimulus bill–will be able to do more than maybe cushion the blow of the coming correction a little. We’ve got decades of overconsumption to pay for, and the deleveraging of the global economy is going to be painful, costly, and prolonged. There isn’t going to be any recovery until debts are paid down (or written off) and savings start to rise again.
    On Tuesday, GM will be back in Washington to get more money: still bleeding cash, still no plan for recovery. More money down the black hole.

  7. Art says:

    The overt, very public and theatrically choreographed, call for bipartisanship, the meetings and lunches and parties will be brought up as proof of this administrations genuineness and desire for cooperation. This will be contrasted with the vitriolic and venomous GOP and noise machine reaction and rhetoric.
    This will form the core of a public relations blitz with a twist. Most previous PR efforts have been directed at the villagers and the media itself. This one will be direct to the people.
    The message will be simple: We tried cooperation and bipartisanship. We tried polite discussion and comity. We tried consultation and went out of our way to request their constructive input.
    In return we got the back of their hand. We are trying to save the nation, bolster the long neglected middle class and make sure the poor don’t drown. At this time of crisis we asked for GOP cooperation and what we got was backbiting and obstructionism.
    I, for one, hope this end-run around the media and villagers works.

  8. patrick says:

    Wow, you people are ideologues. No comments yet about how this travesty of a bill is a ridiculous feedback for democrat interests? Why *should* the republicans buy off on a plan which is- in no way- a bipartisan attempt to resolve the economic crisis, but rather is a massive expansion of federal entitlement programs funded by funny money? Not so much a stimulus as a democrat re-election fund.
    I’m sure you all will be blame Obama/Pelosi/Reid when the deficit hits historic #s (remember how important that was a few years back?) and inflationary pressures have substantively reduced the value of your assets, right?

  9. Troublesome Frog says:

    Maybe you missed the memo. It’s time for arguments that are supported by numbers and mechanistic theories to be privileged over heated rhetoric and sloganeering. Break out the data and economic estimates or take a back seat.

  10. Coin says:

    I guess I’m just not sure why it matters whether the Congressional Republicans supported the stimulus plan or not. I mean, you seem very concerned with the question of whether the bill got Republican support. Why?
    What I saw was this: Obama sought a bill. The bill passed. It passed by the date Obama sought it by, in something extremely close to the original form Obama requested it in– about the size Obama asked, about the ratio of tax cuts Obama asked for, passed by the data Obama asked. Obama didn’t get the Republican support he sought for the bill. But in the course of denying that support the Congressional Republicans dropped their approval ratings by ten points, surely weakening themselves going both into the next fight and the next election, and I think that this has something very much to do with the fact Obama did seek Republican approval for this bill– with Obama having invited Republicans in to participate in the bill, once they turned down that invitation they were robbed of any legitimate way to oppose it. In order to justify their votes they had to stand up and scream about imaginary mice and make themselves look ridiculous on national television trying to claim with a straight face that no government has ever created a job. Is any of this a bad thing for Obama, particularly? Is any of this bad? Obama did sort of lose control of the debate on cable television for a week or so there, and hopefully that won’t happen again, but television isn’t reality. Out in the real world, majorities support the stimulus package by at least a slightly wider margin than, say, voted for Obama in the first place.
    Maybe the idea of your post is that if Obama had abandoned the bipartisanship pretenses he could have gotten a stronger bill, one with more focus on stimulus and less on tax cuts, say. Maybe, I guess. On the other hand if maybe if he’d taken a harder line he wouldn’t have been able to get in those three Republican votes, and the bill wouldn’t have passed– you know, exactly like happened to Clinton. I don’t really know. Either way it’s not really clear to me if Obama had this all to do again that there would be very much to do different.

  11. Coin says:

    passed by the data Obama asked
    …passed by the date Obama asked…

  12. Moopheus says:

    “Maybe you missed the memo. It’s time for arguments that are supported by numbers and mechanistic theories to be privileged over heated rhetoric and sloganeering.”
    What? This is Congress we’re talking about. Overheated rhetoric and sloganeering still rule.

  13. Coin says:

    Moopheus: Still, one would hope that scienceblogs dot com would have higher standards than Congress.

  14. There isn’t going to be any recovery until debts are paid down (or written off) and savings start to rise again.
    On Tuesday, GM will be back in Washington to get more money: still bleeding cash, still no plan for recovery. More money down the black hole.

  15. Julie Stahlhut says:

    Being bipartisan means you get input from a variety of people, not just from one side of the aisle. Obama most certainly did that.
    But, caving in to the loudest of the loud dogs is not being bipartisan — it’s being a doormat. We don’t need doormats in positions of leadership. Thankfully, we appear to have real leadership rather than woven fabric products at the head of government right now.

  16. Barry says:

    I support the idea that this was deliberate. Obama made himself and the Democrats look good, and the GOP look like sh*theads who want things to get worse. Of course, the elite MSM and the Villagers don’t get that.

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