Jewish World Review Dec. 15, 2010 / 8 Teves, 5771
Behind Bill Clinton's Smile
By Jonah Goldberg
You've got to give
"I'm going to let him speak very briefly," Obama said Friday before making the fateful decision to allow a smirking
He might as well have said, "I'm going to let this grizzly bear have just one lick of my ice cream cone."
Still, that Clinton is a camera hog, or even that he puts the lie to Obama's reputation as the most eloquent Democrat, are easy lessons to learn compared with accepting the need to embrace
You have to think Obama is wondering where he took a wrong turn.
The obvious answer: his stimulus bill, which is so unpopular now that
But that's not how it was when Obama took office with an approval rating near 70 percent (83 percent of Americans approved of his transition efforts). Contrary to the spin, many congressional Republicans were either eager to work with the new president or terrified of opposing him. They weren't opposed to a stimulus bill either.
The Republicans discovered that opposing Obama's partisan agenda was good politics. By the health-care debate, independents flocked to the
But what if Obama had gone another way? What if he had rejected both the Democratic and the Republican stimulus bills and gone for a one-year payroll tax holiday of some kind, as many economists suggested at the time?
No bells, no whistles. No too-clever-by-half tax credits or subsidies. Just a straightforward suspension of some or all of the roughly
After all, if you want more of something, tax it less. If you want less of something, tax it more.
Such a stimulus would have been very progressive because payroll taxes are decidedly regressive, hitting the working and middle class harder than they hit the wealthy. According to
Ironically, this is exactly the argument the
Lord knows how much money -- and time -- was wasted on the original Obama stimulus. Shortly before the 2010 election, Obama himself admitted that he learned the hard way that there's "no such thing" as a "shovel-ready job." That's an awfully expensive lesson.
I think the initial appeal of the stimulus for many liberals, Obama included, is that it dovetailed with progressive hubris and Democratic resentment, the two defining characteristics of Obama's base. The experts, with Obama as first among equals, insisted that all of the answers were obvious for the smart set.
Meanwhile, the partisans insisted they deserved unfettered rule after enduring the Bush captivity. Obama was elected by exploiting and exemplifying both sentiments. In his arrogance, he even disparaged the Clinton presidency as too mincing and modest. Then, on Friday, Obama recruited Clinton to help save his more ambitious presidency from ruin.
Bill, like everyone else, recognized Obama's comeuppance. Indeed, you could see it in Bill's smile.
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