By Dan Froomkin
9:47 AM ET, 02/ 5/2009
There's a lively debate over the stimulus package on The Washington Post editorial pages today, headlined by none other than President Obama himself. In an op-ed, Obama responds to criticism of the plan working its way through Congress. He writes that it is intentionally a mix of short-term job creation and long-term strategic goals. And he casts most of the objections as the product of the "partisan gridlock" he was sent to Washington to change -- while making it clear that he blames this particular gridlock on the Republicans.
The Washington Post editorial board is not impressed, writing that "ideology is not the only reason that senators -- from both parties -- are balking at the president's plan." It urges him to reconsider key provisions.
But columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. takes Obama's argument even further, and writes that the GOP has hijacked the media's narrative.
And new Washington Post opinion columnist William Kristol weighs in with a blog post urging Republicans to "[i]nsist on splitting the legislation being debated on the Senate floor into a true short-term stimulus, which can pass quickly, and long-term policy proposals, which require serious debate."
First, here's Obama: "In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.
"I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail."
The Post editorial board writes: "As credible experts, including some Democrats, have pointed out, much of this 'long-term' spending either won't stimulate the economy now, is of questionable merit, or both."
Dionne writes: "For most of the debate, Obama has cast himself as a benevolent referee overseeing a sprawling and untidy legislative process to which he would eventually bring order. He urged Democrats to knock out small spending measures that had caused public relations problems while doing little to defend the overall package or to reply to its Republican critics.
"In the meantime, those critics have been relentless, often casting logic aside to reframe the debate from a practical concern over how to rescue the economy to an ideological dispute about government spending."
Columnist Harold Meyerson writes that Republicans are acting like Alf Landon, the GOP presidential candidate who lost to Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, by the widest margin in the history of presidential elections.
"While retail chains topple like so many dominos as consumers cut back, the Republicans focus on cutting corporate taxes, as though the problem confronting American businesses was the tax on their profits rather than the fact that, in the absence of sales, they have no profits."
Meanwhile, columnist David S. Broder scolds Obama for his handling of the Daschle nomination: "Even when the White House belatedly learned of Daschle's tax troubles, it misjudged the political fallout. Despite the glaring contradiction between Obama's proclaimed ethical standards and Daschle's lucrative expense-account life that led to his tax underpayment, Obama said he 'absolutely' stood by his choice. One day later, he accepted Daschle's withdrawal. This is a blow to Obama's credibility that will not be easily forgotten."