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The Politics of 'Nothing'

By Ben Pershing

As negotiations intensify on the economic stimulus package, the message battle between the two parties has become less substantive and more like an episode of "Seinfeld" -- it's about "nothing."

Having been pummeled by Republicans at the start of the stimulus debate over pork projects and seemingly non-stimulative items in the package, Democrats have shifted to offense in recent days by accusing the GOP of wanting to do nothing, and wanting only to say "no" to anything the majority proposes. The latest salvo in that Democratic message comes in this new ad being run by the liberal group Americans United for Change:

"Call the Republican Leadership. Tell them NO is not an option," says the narrator of the spot, which is running on cable nationally. President Obama made the same point during his appearance in Fort Myers, Fla., yesterday, saying, ""Nothing is not an option. You didn't send me to Washington to do nothing." Obama said something similar during his press conference Monday night.

Republican leaders are not happy with this tactic on the part of Democrats, primarily because they think it's simply not true. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) office has sparked a minor controversy by responding to that Americans United ad with a link to a profane parody ad on YouTube. And according to Politico, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his members during a closed-door meeting this morning: "Monday night, the President said 'some people believe we should do nothing.' He was talking about YOU. I don't think anyone in this room has said 'do nothing."

House Republicans have indeed proposed an alternative stimulus package, and Senate Republicans have done the same. So GOP lawmakers believe that portraying the ifight as being between doing "something" and "nothing" is simply unfair.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) made this point at length during the Senate stimulus floor debate on Monday: "Let me say you can usually tell when proponents of an idea don't have good arguments for their proposition. They generally set up a false premise, what is sometimes called a 'straw man.' It goes like this: We can't just sit here and do nothing. I ask anyone here, has anybody in this Chamber said we have to do nothing in the face of this crisis? No. Everyone who has spoken on both sides has said we have to do something."

Of course, because Republicans control neither Congress nor the White House, their own stimulus proposals have gotten little attention. Even if they do manage to get some publicity, their plans will never become law, and will never be the primary basis for negotiations. And there's probably "nothing" they can do about it. That's life in the minority.

By Ben Pershing  |  February 11, 2009; 12:50 PM ET
Categories:  Agenda  
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Next: Bipartisan Group Calls for End to Senate Appointments


Rep. Sessions put it best when he said Republicans have learned tactics from the Taliban--

domestic terrorism.

Posted by: lichtme | February 11, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Well, to be totally fair, I guess you could call the republican plan "more of the same" tax cuts.

But given that trickle down economics has been revealed as the sham it is, calling the republican plan "nothing", or "nothing new", is actually being polite.

Posted by: Heerman532 | February 11, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans so-called stimulus plan called for no spending and all tax cuts.

These people are really in need of remedial Economics. They would learn that the tax-cut multiplier is less than 1/2 of the spending multiplier, i.e., that $1 of spending creates a stimulus of more than $1 in the economy.

But of course, they could not care. Even though they have been repeatedly proven wrong (look at the Bush tax cuts -- no trickling down effect there --), the Republicans stick to their discredited ideology and believe that tax cuts are a panacea for all ills(it is even rumored to cure cancer).

What their latest circus in Congress and in the media has revealed is 1) that they are economic illiterates; 2) that they want Obama to fail at all costs -- including impoverishing millions of Americans; and 3) that they'll always put party over country.

It is obvious that Republicans despise the common folk, the midle class, and the upper-midle class alike. Their concern is about the welfare of the "have mores", as Bush famously said.

May they be defeated in 2010. The Republicans are traitors to America.

Posted by: Gatsby1 | February 11, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans effectively do indeed want to "do nothing." What they propose--more tax cuts for the well-heeled, little or no relief for the blue- and white-collar working people, and no regulatory reform in the name of their Reaganite laissez-faire ideology--amounts effectively to NOTHING.

And lurking behind this gibble-gabble from the likes of McConnell, Boehner, Cantor, Kyle, and McCain is the gloating of Rush Limbaugh, who openly hopes that Obama will fail, and the guerrilla-war tactics of that congressional idiot from Texas who likes GOP tactics to the Taliban.

Posted by: jm917 | February 11, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I love how, to most liberal democrats in this country, its socialism or nothing.

And when the majority of Citizens, who are primarily center-right, complain about more wasteful spending, the democrats come back with "the republicans are blocking it" and "its all their fault".

No dumb asses, its the majority of the American public that opposes it, regardless of party affiliation.

We are called INDEPENDANTS and we dont like what Congress is doing with our money.


Let the Militia games begin...To free us from this "Tyrannical Government"

Posted by: indep2 | February 11, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

"Republican leaders are not happy with this tactic on the part of Democrats, primarily because they think it's simply not true."

It is to laugh. ReThuglicans concerned about TRUTH? Really?? Don't they still create their own reality? Are the fundamentals of our economy (the workers) still sound?

LOL at these dimwit yahoos, with Cantor at the top of the list. BTW, notice how much he looks like the EX-CEO of Merrill Lynch, Thaine?

Posted by: RealCalGal | February 11, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

"Republican leaders are not happy with this tactic on the part of Democrats, primarily because they think it's simply not true."

It is to laugh. ReThuglicans concerned about TRUTH? Really?? Don't they still create their own reality? Are the fundamentals of our economy (the workers) still sound?

LOL at these dimwit yahoos, with Cantor at the top of the list. BTW, notice how much he looks like the EX-CEO of Merrill Lynch, Thaine?

Posted by: RealCalGal | February 11, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like politics as usual, but this past few weeks the Republican's have been just as guilty, if not more so. They've been setting up their own straw-men and false premises with this bill, totally distorting what's inside of it by exaggerating the 1% of the programs they find objectionable.

Most of the GOP would refuse to support this bill regardless of how flexible the democrats were, simply because they want to hinder the democratic agenda, and position themselves for the next election. But this bill contains all the major items that got Obama elected: investment in infrastructure, green energy, healthcare, and education. These programs are not pork, but they call it such simply because they're social programs, which are automatically objectionable to the GOP. They may not like social programs, but at least call them what they are, and let's have an honest debate about how we should invest in our nations future.

Obama's tried to work with the GOP, making the package include 40% tax-cuts largely to appease the republicans, but in the in the process has had it whittled down and gutted out. I say that next time, he should ignore their input, just to prove that he can get legislation passed without them... then maybe they'll be more willing to reach a real compromise next time around.

Posted by: SnowleopardNZ | February 11, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

McCain said that Republicans want a stimulus plan, just not this stimulus plan. How is that for detail. We know the Republicans want to give more tax cuts to the wealthy but we don't know much more about thier ideas. Obama tried to reach out to them and was treated rudely. The three Republicans who showed a willingness to work with the Dems were able to influence the bill. The main stream Republicans want to do nothing despite what they say. If they were serious they would be more actively offering options rather than demonizing Obama. The Gallup polls are showing the the typical cheap shot name calling by the Repubs is not working.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | February 11, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I apologize for the double post.

Posted by: RealCalGal | February 11, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

It's payback that Republicans are just discovering the "straw man" concept. How many times have we heard about "those who want the terrorists to win?"

Posted by: csaether | February 11, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Indep- maybe what you need is an education.
Less time writing nonsense on the internet, more time learning to spell,read and write.

Posted by: silverspring25 | February 11, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

The GOP was forced to come up with their own bills, otherwise they would have done nothing.

Posted by: AverageJane | February 11, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

silverspring25 wrote:
Indep- maybe what you need is an education.
Less time writing nonsense on the internet, more time learning to spell,read and write.

Awwwww poor rabid liberal. Did your mommy tell you that I spelled something wrong or used the wrong grammar on a blog and to make a special point to me about it?

I suggest you finish your GED so you can understand why your comments are considered gauche on the internet. it may also shed some light on why you continue to live in your parents basement...

Posted by: indep2 | February 11, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

by characterizing any proposal that saved a dollar more of tax payer money as "doing nothing" its clear that obama is fear mongering hack.

i voted for the man, and he has already lost all credibility in my eyes

i dont even care who the republicans are running, this idiot is not getting my vote again.

hell ill vote for john mccain if he runs again

Posted by: dummypants | February 11, 2009 4:30 PM | Report abuse

That's right the Democrats are in the majority and even though 3 Republicans signed on, it is still a Partisan package!
Specter, Collins and Snow (the 3 Republicans) should join the Democratic Party because that's what they are.
This package was a piece of crap from the beginning, created by Nancy Pelosi, David Obey and Harry Reid..all's a long range plan to get the Government into every area of our lives. Wait and see, next will come the higher taxes to support all these Stimulus programs.It should be called what it is "spreading the Wealth program." Great for all the slackers, losers and leaches of society.
And it will fail, requiring even more spending. Then the voters will wake up and the Democrats will be OUT!

Posted by: flchick | February 11, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Just called Cantor's office, 202 225-2815 to object to his votes and the profane ad. I was told "That ad was released by a staff member. Congressman Cantor is not taking responsibility for that." Sort of says it all doesn't it? Jack Abramoff's "Tuna Sandwich" truly is a "chicken of the sea".

Posted by: cliff6 | February 11, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

The republicans believe it is simply unfair. Considering the slurs they promoted about Obama during the election campaign isn't that just a little precious?

Posted by: glennet | February 11, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The Republicons continue the fantasy that a "free market" can solve all economic problems.

Cyclist George W. Bush gave us the closest thing to a free market by ordering all regulators to avoid doing their jobs, whether it was regulating airlines, food and drugs, military expenditures or securities fraud. That gave us the purest form of a "free market" the Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme.

If the market got any "freer," our investment returns would be based on the caliber of our firearms.

Before Bush and his insane Neocon handlers, the Republicons stood for something: fiscal responsibility. Bush blew that reputation to smithereens by issuing more debt than all his predecessors COMBINED! Republicons also used to oppose "nation building." Under Bush, they decided that any and every nation needed to be invaded and rebuilt, regardless of the cost, if there was even a 1% chance that they might not like us. Republicons used to want "government off our backs." Under Bush-Cheney they decided a husband could only stop intravenous feedings of his brain-dead wife through an act of Congress. It meant so much to Bush that he actually interrupted a vacation to fly back to Washington to sign the emergency measure. Republicons used to represent governmental competence, a somewhat boring but necessary concept. Now, they are known as the Wrecking Crew, the Pirates of the Potomac.

What the Republicons have left is exactly what Bush left them: Nothing.

Now you know how it feels to be all alone in a Godless universe. That's how the poor wretches in Guantanamo felt when we held them in darkness and silence between rounds of torture. For all that, good night and good luck!

Posted by: motorfriend | February 11, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Given that

1) Obama has tried to accommodate the request for tax cuts and

2) the Republicans still vote against the bill, and

3) that increasing tax cuts would make the bill more expensive and less efficient,

YES, this bill is the only effective game in town, and to reject it is the equivalent of doing nothing.

Posted by: j2hess | February 11, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

If you object to this stimulus package, sign a national petition at:

My objection is that this package leaves women stadning in the unemployment line and being put out on the street.

I am tired of my tax dollars making men rich and me poor!

Posted by: mgd1 | February 11, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives would rather see America fail than let our economy be saved by "Liberals" and "Socialists".

Please visit my Blog: "Conservatives Are America's Real Terrorists"

Posted by: cjprentiss | February 12, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Clearly, the pursuit of the Reaganonsense fantasy (which holds that: regulation is bad, government is bad, tax cuts cure all problems) is the main cause of the pending economic collapse. There is little hope of recovery if we do not abandon it. We must resist the Republican sincere, but misguided, addiction to this failed policy.

Posted by: veehaann | February 12, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

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