Obama tried to charm them, Rush tried to bully them. And the results are in. Round 1 goes by unanimous decision to Rush Limbaugh. Not one House Republican voted with the president on the stimulus package even after his "charm offensive."
These guys are the barbarians at the gate, there's no charming them. President Obama went to visit them, he invited them over to the White House, he had drinks with them, he stood by while they bad-mouthed Congressional Democrats, he adjusted the bill for them, he cut out the contraception education and he added tax cuts. In the end, what did he get for his efforts? A big fat doughnut. Nothing.
Not one House Republican voted for his stimulus package. 177-0.
On the other side, they went groveling over to Rush, tripping over themselves to court his favor and take his tongue-lashings (how grotesque does that sound?). In the end, he got them all (and all the national attention -- which was his true goal).
Now, Obama might be playing a chess match here. He might be positioning himself politically to be able to say to the American people, "Now look, I tried to be bi-partisan. I did all I could. And they did not budge. They are obstinate, partisan and obstructionist." He would have an excellent case to make.
Maybe he is that smart. But I believe he was also partly naïve enough to believe that he could convince them. That they would listen to reason. That they would be swayed by his compromises. That's not how they roll.
The maddening part of all this is that the stimulus package, in my opinion, is bloated, vague and rushed. Does anyone really know how we are going to spend $819 billion? Let alone how we're going to pay for it? Has anyone done the analysis on whether spending $142 billion on education by the federal government is efficient or necessary? Could we have made do with $132 billion?
Instead, the Republicans went the same old tired route - more tax cuts. They have not had an original idea in at least 30 years. Look, we tried endless tax cuts under Bush. Did that seem to do the trick?
Why not argue for spending the money in a constructive and judicious way? Why not pick a project to get behind and say we should concentrate on that for job creation? It could even be green energy because they could argue it is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil for national security reasons - and it creates new, sustainable jobs. They would get huge points for being bold and actually caring about an issue for a change. But that would be constructive. And the Republicans don't do constructive.
What Obama said to the Muslim world in his inaugural address, he could have just as well said to the Republican Party, "People will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."