- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2009

‘Hyper-partisan’

“Although our new president has had an unusually eventful first few weeks in office, it is too early to draw many conclusions about his presidency. One thing seems clear, however: [Barack] Obama is not going to be a ‘post-partisan’ president. In fact, the early indications are that Obama will be a more partisan president than normal,” Paul Mirengoff writes at www.powerlineblog.com.

“It was never plausible to think Obama would be post-partisan. He was, after all, arguably the most left-wing member of the U.S. Senate. And given the extent of Democratic control of Congress, there was no imperative that he reach out to mainstream Republicans on policy issues,” Mr. Mirengoff said.

“But Obama did make a few conciliatory gestures during his period as president-elect. Thus, it would have been unfair to dismiss completely the possibility that his presidency might be less partisan than normal until we saw how he governed.

“Now we see. Obama pushed for a stimulus package formulated by his party’s left wing. The only ground he gave was the ground necessary to pick up the very small number of Republican votes required to pass a package. There’s nothing formally wrong with this approach, but it isn’t post-partisan.

“When it comes to the issue of dealing with terrorists, moreover, Obama shows himself to be hyper-partisan. To the extent that post-partisanship has any meaning, it means what Obama said during the campaign - a focus on ‘common ground’ rather than on ‘what divides us.’ But Obama is proceeding in precisely the opposite fashion on terrorism issues.”

Obama’s mistake

The inquest on President Obama’s great stimulus mistake continues, Peggy Noonan writes at www.opinionjournal.com.

“His serious and consequential policy mistake is that he put his prestige behind not a new way of breaking through, but an old way of staying put. This marked a dreadful misreading of the moment. And now he’s digging in. His political mistake, which in retrospect we will see as huge, is that he remoralized the Republicans. He let them back in the game,” Miss Noonan said.

“Mr. Obama has a talent for reviving his enemies. He did it with Hillary Clinton, who almost beat him after his early wins, and who was given the State Department. He has now done it with Republicans on the Hill. This is very nice of him, but not in his interests.

“Mr. Obama should have written the stimulus bill side by side with Republicans, picked them off, co-opted their views. Did he not understand their weakness? They had no real position from which to oppose high and wasteful spending, having backed eight years of it with nary a peep. They started the struggle over the stimulus bill at a real disadvantage. Then four things: Nancy Pelosi served up old-style pork, Mr. Obama swallowed it, Republicans shocked themselves by being serious, and then they startled themselves by being unified. But it was their seriousness that was most important: They didn’t know they were! They hadn’t been in years!

“One senses in a new way the disaster that is Nancy Pelosi. She was all right as leader of the opposition in the Bush era, opposition being joyful and she being by nature chipper. She is tough, experienced, and of course only two years ago she was a breakthrough figure, the first female speaker. But her public comments are often quite mad - we’re losing 500 million jobs a month; here’s some fresh insight on Catholic doctrine - and in a crisis demanding of creativity, depth and the long view, she seems more than ever a mere ward heeler, a hack, a pol. She’s not big enough for the age, is she? She’s not up to it.

“Whatever happens in the Senate, Republicans have to some degree already won.”

Bad signs

“What approach will the Obama administration and the Democratic majority in Congress take on international economic policy? It is too early to say for sure, but the signs so far are worrying,” N. Gregory Mankiw writes in the New York Times.

“Just before his confirmation as Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner turned up the heat on the Chinese regarding the dollar-yuan exchange rate. President Obama, he said, ‘believes that China is manipulating its currency. Countries like China cannot continue to get a free pass for undermining fair-trade principles.’

“Like many economists, I cringe whenever I hear the term ‘fair trade.’ It is not that I am against fairness - who is? - but the word ‘fair’ is so amorphous in this context as to defy definition. Most often, the slogan ‘fair trade’ is little more than a rallying cry for protectionism,” said Mr. Mankiw, a professor of economics at Harvard who served as an adviser to President Bush.

He added: “Directing attention to the China currency issue amid a worldwide recession and growing fears of depression is more than a distraction. It is downright counterproductive. Senators Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, have long proposed dealing with the yuan undervaluation by imposing tariffs on Chinese imports. The Treasury secretary´s comments risk stoking those protectionist embers.

“Indeed, protectionist influences seem to be finding their way into the stimulus bill winding its way through Congress.”

Time to say ‘no’

“As a candidate, Obama did many things right. His thinking was always strategic, and his speeches were smartly timed. One thing he didn’t do was draw any lines within the vast universe of Democratic interest groups; he never said ‘no’ to anyone,” Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi writes.

“Now, he must. Otherwise, Republicans will keep on tapping into the ideological talking points that didn’t work during the presidential campaign,” the columnist said.

“They are bound to work better now that George W. Bush is no longer president. Obama ran against Republican John McCain. But he beat Bush, not conservatism.

“The results of a CBS poll released last week show that Republicans who are advocating an increase in the proportion of tax cuts in the stimulus bill are winning the argument. Asked whether higher government spending or tax cuts for business would be more effective in ending the recession, 59 percent chose tax cuts, while only 22 percent chose government spending. While 51 percent of those polled said they back the concept behind Obama’s stimulus package, support for Obama’s plan has fallen 12 points since January.”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or e-mail Greg Pierce.

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