House Passes Stimulus Package–and Oh, By the Way, Bipartisanship is Dead
The House just passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It now goes to the Senate for a final vote, which is expected to take place tonight. People will be looking over the text of the bill to figure out what it is that passed.
Meanwhile, Rahm Emanuel is putting a stake in through the heart of bipartisanship:
Mr. Emanuel owned up to one mistake: message. What he called the outside game slipped away from the White House last week, when the president and others stressed bipartisanship rather than job creation as they moved toward passing the measure. White House officials allowed an insatiable desire in Washington for bipartisanship to cloud the economic message a point coming clear in a study being conducted on what went wrong and what went right with the package, he said.
I’m reading those words and I’m wincing. I argued strongly at the time that prizing bipartisan "process" over substance (jobs creation) was a big mistake, and I fundamentally don’t believe it’s possible to work with the other side if they have no higher goal than to undermine you if you won’t appease them by adopting the same policies that created the problem in the first place. It just isn’t possible.
But a commitment to transcend partisanship was a successful message, and it did inspire people — they believed that Obama was sincerely trying to rise above DC gridlock that appeared to keep meaningful change from happening. They really hoped that if he remained committed to it over time, the "ten dimensional chess" he was playing could change the political discourse. And hell, for all I know maybe it could.
I didn’t suggest he abandon his own message, and I sure didn’t recommend that he do a 180 and "shift from bipartisan overtures to outright mockery of his opposition," which is what Rahm Emanuel just told the press. I thought he should establish concrete objectives by which the efforts of both parties could be measured, and then put out the welcome mat to anyone who wanted to join him in that task.
I thought that Obama’s vigorous defense of the bill before House Democrats hit just the right note, and that he made a successful argument on substance rather than process. It was possible to save the message and just shift tactics:
Obama plans to travel more and campaign more in an effort to pressure lawmakers with public support, rather than worrying about whether he can win over Republican votes in Congress.
I think Obama is actually adjusting rather pitch-perfectly to what the Republicans are throwing at him. He doesn’t need Rahm out there announcing that his commitment to "bipartisanship" was just "for the sake of appearances."