A television ad launched against Harry Reid late last week underscores an obvious tension, if not outright duplicity, that exists within the Republican Party with respect to the economic stimulus package passed by Democrats last year.
On Thursday evening, the new conservative group American Crossroads -- conceived of by veteran GOP operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie -- released a TV advertisement attacking the Senate Majority Leader for, of all things, not bringing enough stimulus dollars back to Nevada.
It's bad enough that Nevada has the highest unemployment in the nation. And Harry Reid claims to be helping the jobs situation? Really Harry? Recent data show Nevada ranks 50th in the money received from Harry's stimulus bill. That's right -- Senate leader Harry Reid has gotten his own state less help than every other state but one. And along with bailouts, deficits, and Obamacare, that's what Harry Reid's done for Nevada. Really Harry? That's not the kinda help Nevada needs.
Coming in the middle of the heated Nevada Senate race, the spot is designed to put the entirety of the blame for Nevada's unemployment at Reid's feet. But the numbers are wrong. There are, in fact, 13 states that have received less stimulus money than Nevada, according to administration data.
More important than the misleading message, however, is the audacity of the messengers. Americans Crossroads is a conservative outfit run by a host of fierce critics of the Democratic stimulus program. Gillespie, the former RNC Chair and Bush hand, has criticized the stimulus package as ineffectual and misguided. Karl Rove, another American Crossroads chief and Bush confidant, actually insisted that the stimulus bill hurt the economy. Now, it appears, they see virtue in the recovery package. Were it not for the ineptitude of Harry Reid, the group argues, Nevada would be reaping more of the benefits.
Of course, the more fundamental message being advanced by American Crossroads is that Reid is simply incompetent. How, after all, could a Majority Leader not bring home the bacon to his needy constituents? But that too is misleading. As The Atlantic's Derek Thompson explains: "Republicans have spent the last three months blocking a Sen. Reid-endorsed extension to unemployment insurance that would particularly help Nevada, since federal UI contributions are tied to state unemployment rate. They're blocking Democrats' jobless aid in Washington and blaming Sen. Reid for not spending more on joblessness in Reno."
Indeed, from the perches of Congress and the cable news circuit, Republican lawmakers have howled at the mere suggestion of additional government spending -- reflecting concerns over rising deficits. But when the debate moves back to districts or the states, the tune is decidedly different. GOP lawmakers have attended ribbon-cutting ceremonies for stimulus projects; they have hosted job fairs with companies who have received recovery funds; they've complained about the slow pace of stimulus distribution; and they've even privately lobbied departments within the administration for stimulus funds.
In the end, the GOP isn't just trying to have its cake and eat it too. They're insisting that the cake has no nutritional value, refusing to bake more, and then criticizing Democrats for not feeding it to more people.