I've said it before, and I'll say it again: bipartisanship in service of bad legislation is not a good thing.
And, make no mistake, this bailout bill -- at least if the details that are trickling out are accurate -- is going to be very bad legislation indeed. And by that I mean very bad for the American people, whose interests are by no means identical to Wall Street's.
If Barack Obama goes along with it in the name of post-partisan comity, he's making a big mistake. Washington is not lacking political leaders willing to go along with the flow. It's lacking political leaders willing to lead.
"This is our moment," Obama keeps saying in his speeches. And this is his moment to lead, rather than to appear as one of the Bailout Bipartisan Musketeers ("One for all, and all for Goldman Sachs").
Could it be that he's surrounded himself with so many advisors who are looking at the bailout from a Wall Street perspective, he now sees it that way too?
Last night, he announced that he'd urged Democratic leaders in Congress not to pursue efforts to include an economic stimulus package in the bailout, or to push for a provision giving bankruptcy judges the power to rework mortgage rates because it might derail a deal.
That's the kind of thinking that prompted White House press secretary Dana Perino to applaud the candidates for trying to take the politics out of the equation.
But, as David Sirota, asks: "When did a crisis suddenly mean that giving away taxpayer cash is laudably apolitical, but spending taxpayer money on taxpayers is inappropriately 'political?'"
There has been a flood of irate calls and emails pouring into Congressional offices from people who are not buying George Bush's efforts last night to paint the bailout not as a helping hand to Wall Street but essential to avoid wiped-out retirement savings, rising home foreclosures, lost jobs, and "a long and painful recession."
There are rumblings that McCain may attempt to torpedo the nascent bailout agreement in an attempt to play the populist rebel. As Marc Ambinder puts it: "nothing says 'maverick,' like voting against Bush and standing with the American public, who remain very wary of the proposal." Rank and file House Republicans are also shaking their heads and muttering "no deal." So will it be Obama, as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party, making a deal that, in the end, adopts the overriding trickle down essence of the original Paulson plan: give Wall Street what it wants, cross our fingers, and hope that the crisis is averted?
Instead of siding with Bush and Paulson on far too many deal points, Obama should draw a line in the sand and refuse to cross it.
Voters are not looking for smiling post-partisan photo ops. They are looking for a leader willing to fight for a bailout plan that more directly protects the interests of the American people.
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