Congressional Republicans may have forged a fragile peace with President-elect Obama as he pushes his stimulus plan. But they face an insurgency on their right flank.
"You can sense a lot of frustration -- from listening to Rush Limbaugh to reading at RedState -- with Republican members of Congress being ready to fall all over themselves to help him," says Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative blog RedState.
When Republicans dominated Congress and the White House, the liberal blogosphere made a daily habit of chiding Democrats for capitulating to the President Bush. It's happening all over again on the right.
The conservative blogosphere worries that the Obama administration is setting a trap for Republicans: by supporting the stimulus, the GOP simultaneously gives Obama bipartisan cover and further erodes the Republicans' reputation as the party of spending discipline.
If the stimulus package fails to turn the economy around, argue Erickson and others, Democrats will be able to spread the blame around. Erickson thinks that the trap was most likely being set by chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, rather than Obama himself. "I don't think Obama's smart enough to set it," Erickson says. "I think he really believes his own rhetoric" about post-partisanship.
AllahPundit, writing on HotAir, posited that Obama knows "that the ship's going down and want[s] Republicans on deck with him so that they don't capitalize in the midterms. For reasons that escape me, the GOP's evidently going to play along even though they're powerless to stop the stimulus anyway."
Rich Lowry, over at National Review's The Corner, seconded the idea that Obama "wants to suck them into supporting his bill as a political cover against its perceived or actual failure."
The problem with supporting the recovery package, as both sides see it, is that it's never easy to vote for something intended to prevent harm rather than to do good. If it works, no one knows that it worked. Or, as Rep. Barney Frank put it during the financial bailout debate in October, "It's like wearing dark pants and pissing down your leg. It gives you a warm feeling, but no one knows you did it."
Warm feeling or not, Erickson warns that right-wing blogs will soon begin directing readers to call members of Congress to pull them off the Obama pile. "We haven't really revved it up," he says.
Maybe not, but the rhetoric has certainly been revving.
"The Wealth Redistributor-Elect just wrapped up his fear-mongering speech on behalf of the Generational Theft Act of 2009," Michelle Malkin wrote shortly after Obama's speech on the stimulus at George Mason University.
Don Surber at DailyMail called Obama's plan simply "EVIL."
House Republican leadership responded by gathering a list of a couple dozen economists who say that government spending isn't proven to be an effective economic policy in times of recession. "We can't simply borrow and spend our way back to prosperity," Minority Leader John Boehner said in a statement accompanying the list. "The American people have real doubts about the notion that massive increases in government spending will spur economic growth. So do many economists."
Yet Republican leadership remains at the table with Obama and continues to express broad support for a stimulus. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday morning that he didn't think the bill would have trouble getting the 60 votes needed to pass.
While they're angry at congressional Republicans, conservative bloggers acknowledge that, as far as Obama's concerned, he's keeping a campaign promise. "He's doing nothing more than what he told Joe the Plumber he'd do, spreading the wealth," says Erickson. "It'll probably be the only campaign promise he'll keep."