At the battle of Asculum, the Greek king Pyrrhus defeated a
Roman legion, but at frightful cost to his own troops. When sycophantic
courtiers congratulated him on his "great victory," Pyrrhus responded:
"one more such victory, and we shall be undone."
President Obama plans to celebrate his Asculum passage of the (at
least) $787 billion "stimulus" bill with a signing ceremony in Denver
Tuesday. Sycophantic courtiers in the news media hailed this as a great
victory for the president, but it comes at the cost of the illusion Mr.
Obama represents a change from the corrupt old ways of Washington.
Candidate Obama promised a new openness in government. But the biggest
spending bill ever was drafted behind closed doors. Candidate Obama
pledged to weaken the influence of lobbyists. But lobbyists received
copies of the "stimulus" bill before lawmakers did. Candidate Obama
pledged a bipartisan approach to government. But not a single
Republican in the House, and only three in the Senate, voted for it.
Mr. Obama is fond of the appearance of bipartisanship. He nominated
three Republicans to his Cabinet. He's dined with conservative
columnists, and invited several GOP lawmakers to watch the Super Bowl
But Mr. Obama is like a young man who expects a girl to put out if he
buys her a hamburger and a beer. If he were more concerned about the
substance of bipartisanship, he'd have insisted upon a stimulus package
more Republicans could support, and he wouldn't now be looking for his
third nominee for Secretary of Commerce.
Sen. Gregg withdrew, citing "irreconcilable differences" over the
stimulus package. The more important reason was because the president
had made it clear Sen. Gregg was just to be window dressing. The
Commerce secretary has only one important job, to oversee the decennial
census. If illegal aliens are counted as citizens, several House seats
could be shifted from the Republicans to the Democrats after the next
reapportionment. Cheating is the Chicago Way, but Sen. Gregg is both
honest and a Republican. He couldn't be counted on to cheat. So the
president announced oversight of the census would be shifted to the
White House. This is probably illegal, and it made Sen. Gregg look like
a chump. So he did the only thing an honorable man could do.
With so many of the president's nominees having to withdraw because of
ethical problems, it was refreshing to have one withdraw because he had
ethics. But several of the president's courtiers in the news media
described Sen. Gregg's resignation, and the paucity of GOP votes for the
porkalooza, as evidence of a Republican "war" against Mr. Obama.
"Their clear intent is to do all they can, however they can, to sabotage
the new administration," wrote Andrew Sullivan in the Atlantic. Mr.
Sullivan and others of his ilk see nothing partisan in House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi's exclusion of Republicans from the drafting of the
stimulus bill; in the president's refusal to make meaningful
compromises, or in the transfer of census oversight to the White House.
President Obama is very big on symbolism. He is signing the bill in
Denver, the city where he was nominated for president, on Tuesday (in
violation of his pledge to have at least five days elapse between
passage of a law and his signing of it to allow time for public
comment), because Tuesday is four weeks precisely since his
Symbolism is important. But presidents ultimately are judged on
substance. The "stimulus" bill stimulates the economy in much the same
way a marathon runner would be stimulated by having to carry a 40-lb
sack of concrete. The bill does little to relieve the burdens of the
private sector, much to increase them.
"President Barack Obama is popular for now. But his program for
reinvigorating the economy is not," wrote Gary Younge in the British
newspaper the Guardian Monday. "It is a sign of the dislocation between
politics and everyday life that while the $787 billion stimulus
package...is being hailed as a great victory, nobody truly believes it