- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

HILL CHAOS

“We’re receiving e-mails from Capitol Hill staffers expressing frustration that they can’t get a copy of the stimulus bill agreed to [Wednesday] night at a price of $789 billion,” Paul Bedard wrote Thursday in the Washington Whispers column at www.usnews.com.

“What’s more, staffers are complaining about who does have a copy: K Street lobbyists. E-mails one key Democratic staffer: ‘K Street has the bill, or chunks of it, already, and the congressional offices don’t. So, the Hill is getting calls from the press (because it’s leaking out) asking us to confirm or talk about what we know - but we can’t do that because we haven’t seen the bill. Anyway, peeps up here are sort of a combo of confused and like, “Is this really happening?” ‘

“Reporters pressing for details, meanwhile, are getting different numbers from different offices, especially when seeking the details of specific programs,” Mr. Bedard said.

“Worse, there seem to be several different versions of what was agreed upon, with some officials circulating older versions of the package that seems to still be developing. Leadership aides said that it will work out later [Thursday] and promised that lawmakers will get time to review the bill before Friday’s vote.”

WRONG APPROACH

President Barack Obama’s honeymoon period seems to have ended quickly. That’s because Mr. Obama doesn’t grasp the essentials of presidential leadership,” Steven F. Hayward writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“Rather than making a compelling case for his economic policies, he has resorted to curt rebuffs, such as telling House Republican whip Eric Cantor, ‘I won.’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the same thing the same day: ‘We won the election; we wrote the [stimulus] bill.’ This is the trope of a party that has lost its ability to make an argument,” said Mr. Hayward, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of the forthcoming “The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counter-Revolution, 1980-1989.”

“Mr. Obama and his team would be well advised to put aside the imperious FDR model and study Ronald Reagan’s first 200 days in office. The contrast is instructive.

“Upon entering office in 1981, Reagan’s team produced a 50-page, detailed blueprint for their first six months in office. The passage of their economic policy was the central objective. This report, called the Initial Actions Project (IAP), has received little attention from historians or journalists (with the notable exception of Lou Cannon). It would be highly useful for Mr. Obama to review it.

“One of the main themes that emerges from the IAP report is that Reagan and his team didn’t assume that a landslide victory meant they had a mandate to do whatever they wanted. To the contrary, the report’s authors, Richard Wirthlin and David Gergen, wrote: ‘The election was not a bestowal of political power, but a stewardship opportunity for us to reconsider and restructure the political agenda for the next two decades. The public has sanctioned the search for a new public philosophy to govern America.’

“Establishing a new governing philosophy, in other words, would require sustained public argument - something for which Reagan had an abiding instinct.”

VULNERABLE SENATORS

“Both of Connecticut’s U.S. senators were greeted with ominous new poll numbers on Tuesday,” Steve Kornacki writes in the New York Observer.

“The new Quinnipiac University survey showed Chris Dodd, a senator’s son who first won election to the upper chamber in 1980, scoring his lowest ever marks and Joe Lieberman trailing by a whopping 28 points in a re-election trial heat,” Mr. Kornacki said.

“But while Dodd must face the voters two years before Lieberman (whose seat isn’t up until 2012), it’s the Democrat-turned-independent who probably has more to worry about, and to mull over.

“Dodd’s situation probably looks a lot worse than it actually is. The Quinnipiac poll gives him a negative job approval rating (41 percent approve/48 disapprove), marking yet another decline in his once-sterling numbers. Two months ago, he enjoyed a positive approval rating, 47 to 41 percent, and last July the spread was a healthy 17 points, 51 to 34 percent. At his all-time peak, back in early 2001, Dodd sported a 71/16 approval mark.

“The culprit is obvious: the nagging saga of Dodd’s mortgage dealings with Countrywide Financial, which were first reported last June. The suggestion was that Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, received a sweetheart deal reserved for ‘friends’ of the company’s chairman. But only this week, nearly eight months after the story broke, did Dodd provide the media with documentation to substantiate his claims of innocence.”

UNREFORMING WELFARE

President Barack Obama vowed to correct the mistakes of the Bush administration but instead is determined to undo one of the great successes of the Clinton years: welfare reform,” the editors of National Review said Thursday at www.nationalreview.com.

“Democrats have inserted provisions into the catch-all stimulus bill that will reverse Clinton-era welfare reform, re-establishing the wasteful, incentive-killing system whose transformation was the bipartisan pride of the 1990s,” the magazine said.

“Prior to reform, the federal government simply gave the states more money for every family they added to the welfare rolls. The predictable result was that the states worked hard to maximize their welfare caseloads in order to maximize the amount of federal funding they could therefore claim. The system had zero incentive to help people make the transition from welfare to work and independence - in fact, the states were financially punished for doing so.”

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

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