4:30 p.m. ET: Is the GOP the party of "no'? By now you've heard that refrain plenty of times, and Democrats will ensure that you hear it many times more. Democrats were heartened by David Brooks' column in the New York Times today, which helpfully suggested that when it comes to economic policy, "The G.O.P. leaders have adopted a posture that allows the Democrats to make all the proposals while all the Republicans can say is 'no.'"
Brooks was not talking about the omnibus appropriations bill, which is currently grinding its way toward passage in the Senate, but no matter. Speaking to reporters today, Harry Reid lamented that the spending bill "has taken far too long." He then cited the Brooks column in saying of Republicans, "It just seems that they're saying no to everything."
Of course, from the GOP's perspective, as Mitch McConnell pointed out today, what they're saying "no" to is the 8 percent increase in domestic spending contained in the omnibus bill. And McConnell certainly hopes the Senate says no to the Employee Free Choice Act, which was introduced today with uncertain prospects for passage. Asked about the bill's chances, McConnell said, "I certainly hope they're bleak."
10:45 a.m. ET: Amid all the gloom and doom nowadays, wouldn't it be nice to hear just a little bit of good news? Well, here it is -- now you can get Political Browser updates on Twitter! Just head over to postbrowser and start following. We have no illusions we'll ever be as popular as TheFix, but maybe we can pick up some of his scraps.
8 a.m. ET: Today is the 50th day of Barack Obama's presidency -- halfway to the magic 100 -- and elite opinion is remarkably split on his tenure so far. Has he been transformational or conventional? Ambitious and broad, or scattered and unfocused? Is he an instinctive centrist forced by the economic crisis to propose historically huge programs, or is he really a "socialist" whose real goal is to engineer a permanent government expansion?
First, it's worth noting that public opinion remains strongly on Obama's side. Gallup pegs his job approval at 62 percent, within single digits of where he's been since Inauguration Day. (His disapproval has gone up more since Day 1, but remains relatively low at 25 percent.) And many of Obama's individual actions have been welcomed by voters, including his centerpiece $787 billion economic stimulus package, which inspired a mix of poll results but generally continues to be more popular than not. Obama's acting on the right side of the polls continued right up through yesterday, when his move to reverse President Bush's policy on stem cell research got the support of a (narrow) majority.
Outside the court of public opinion and inside the political class, the verdict is less clear. On the right, conservatives appear to have grown gradually more disappointed with Obama's actions, beginning with their united opposition to the stimulus package, moving through their scathing criticism of the president's budget and the omnibus spending bill, and continuing right up until yesterday's (completely predictable) move on stem cells. The unanswered question is whether Republicans really expected much different from a Democratic president, and whether they really anticipated more "bipartisanship" from Obama or are just seizing the tactical opportunity to turn his rhetoric against him.
On the left, Obama has gotten praise for the stimulus (though maybe it could have been bigger), for the budget and for repudiating Bush policies on issues like stem cells, torture and signing statements (though maybe he should be tougher with his predecessor). The jury is still out on some other key Democratic priorities, particularly the Employee Free Choice Act, which is now coming down the legislative pike -- without the required 60 votes, so far -- even as Obama's level of commitment to passing the bill isn't completely clear. And as The Fix points out this morning, many liberals are unhappy with Obama's suggestion that hundreds of billions more might be required to bail out the financial system.
There is little question on either side of the aisle that Obama came into office with a lot on his plate -- the banking crisis, the meltdown in Detroit, Afghanistan, Iran, Gaza -- and then chose to heap on even more, proposing an ambitious budget and talking openly of sweeping reform on health care, Social Security and other big-ticket items that could easily chew up large chunks of any conventional presidency. Today, for example, Obama is tackling education after hitting stem cells yesterday, health care last week and Iraq before that. Is he a man in too much of a hurry, or just responding to these extraordinary times? Perhaps we'll have a better idea when we get to 100 days
March 10, 2009; 8:05 AM ET
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