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by Jonah Goldberg
Every president is subject to forces beyond his control. If unemployment were at 5 percent, President Obama would be doing fine. If the Christmas bomber's pants had exploded successfully, Obama would be in far worse shape.
Obama's progressive base thinks his problems stem from not being ambitious enough. Conservatives argue the opposite. And what about the independents who've been running from Obama like residents of Tokyo fleeing Godzilla? Everyone has a theory, but one thing is clear: People think Obama took his eye off the ball.
If there's a single event for which Obama himself is to blame, one decision that explains his predicament, it is his mishandling of the stimulus at the dawn of his administration. Put aside the debate over whether it has "worked," and forget the
This time last year, there was a wide and deep consensus that the country needed a second stimulus (President Bush's first one of
Politically, the stimulus offered the president a chance to break the back of the
But Obama went a different way (unlike Bush, who started his presidency with the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act). He outsourced the entire
Democrats contend that Republicans refused to work with them on the stimulus but that they incorporated "Republican ideas" in the form of "tax cuts." The facts don't support this. Pelosi introduced the stimulus bill the night before Obama even met with Republicans to solicit their ideas. When the
Nor did it have "Republican ideas" in it. The bulk of the "tax cuts" -- touted by Obama in the State of the Union last week -- were actually micromanaging, Keynesian "rebates," or what Ryan calls "spending through the tax code." Regardless, if you want hot dogs on the menu and the cook serves tofurkey soydogs, it's really not right to say the chef incorporated your ideas.
Wrong or not, the Republicans were sufficiently appalled by both the substance and the process of the stimulus that they united against it, as did the public. The pork, fake ZIP codes and spending on items never intended to stimulate the economy fueled the migration of independents from Obama and set the tone for his first year: Bipartisanship was out; phony partisan spin was in. As a result, the
A year ago, the
Partisan Stimulus Poisoned the Well | Jonah Goldberg
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