Mon, 02 Feb 2009 17:21:46 +0000 – By Peter Roff Senior Fellow at the Institute for Liberty/Former Senior Political Writer for United Press International
The Obama administration was supposed to begin with a whirlwind sweeping the corridors of power clean here in Washington. Just days before his inauguration senior Obama aides were hinting-- as I have written before -- that they wanted to be judged by their actions in their first 100 hours on the job, let alone the first 100 days.
[caption id="attachment_6339" align="aligncenter" width="218" caption="House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the President. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)"][/caption]
Well, the first 100 hours sort of fizzled. A few executive orders issued, a few Bush policies overturned, a few meetings taken; not exactly the kind of stuff to write home to Mom about.
Things have not gotten better. The need to explain why Obama cabinet picks Timothy Geithner and Tom Daschle failed to stay current with the tax folks wasn't exactly helpful. Neither was the news that nearly a dozen lobbyists were getting prominent administration jobs despite the new president's "no lobbyists" personnel decree.
Things are different for the Republicans though, who actually have shown some hopeful signs of coming back to life. Faced with what some suggest is the imminent destruction of the party by the Obama machine, the GOP has apparently found its voice by saying almost nothing at all.
The trigger for this good news is "Porkulus," the massive spending bill currently working its way through Congress.
Sold as a program to immediately stimulate the flagging U.S. economy, Porkulus is supposed to be the first 100 days signature piece of legislation, paying out enough money to kick start things as they are sliding into a real recession, fourth quarter of 2008 GDP figures showing a contraction of almost four percent.
The bad economy, plus Obama's vaunted net roots political machine, his 53 percent victory, and the Gallup organization's new assertion that the number of safe Republican states is down to about five -- with none in the solid South -- was supposed to have stampeded everyone into voting for Porkulus. Obama made a show of "listening" to the Republicans. And he did "reach out" to them -- but only so far as to let them know his heels were dug in and he wasn't in the mood to negotiate. He would, however, feel bad while watching them complain about it on FOX News, or so one person present in the meeting alleged.
Porkulus, with a price tag nearing $1 trillion, includes much that the heartland of America might find objectionable. In its original version, it included money that would likely have ended up filling the coffers of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America which, according to some news reports, is laying off personnel thanks to a financial bind attributed to Bernie Madoff and his magic pyramid.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after first defending the money, agreed to drop it from the bill. But Porkulus still includes over $300 million to combat sexually transmitted diseases, an earmark of more than $2 billion for national parks being pushed by an organization whose chief lobbyist is the son of House Appropriations Committee Chairman Wisconsin's David Obey, $200 million for new sod for the National Mall (the old sod apparently having been wrecked by the near record turnout for Obama's inauguration), $44 million to repair the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (also on the National Mall) and $600 million so the federal government can buy some new cars from Detroit (well, someone has to).
When push came to shove this pork-laden, special interesting supporting, mother-of-all spending legislation did pass the House-- but without a single Republican voting for it. As a result, its prospects in the Senate have gotten worse, with Republicans and Democrats both suggesting Porkulus is in trouble.
The partisan nature of the support for Porkulus has sparked a stream of confused comment from the Democrats and the liberal allies -- who suddenly seem to have forgotten they won the election. The scheme to make Porkulus a bi-partisan effort is collapsing, stripping them of the political cover they were depending on to protect them once America learns what is really in the bill.
So the gloves have been taken off. MoveOn.Org let its members know by e-mail over the weekend that Porkulus is in trouble:
"President Obama's economic recovery plan just passed in the House-it's got billions of dollars for education, mass transit, and clean energy. But what really gets me is that not a single Republican voted for it, despite all the efforts by President Obama to reach across the aisle. If the same thing happens in the Senate, it won't pass."
So MoveOn thinks Porkulus won't pass because it didn't get any GOP votes in the House and it may not get any GOP votes in the Senate, where the Democrats hold a majority of 59 out of 100 seats. Hmmm...
Meanwhile, the White House, seemingly looking to pick a fight with someone, is poking radio commentator Rush Limbaugh instead of the people who can actually vote on the bill. It's sort of like the Bush White House deciding to pick on the Dixie Chicks over Iraq after lead singer Natalie Maines spouted off in London: entertaining but totally beside the point.
By maintaining a posture of relative silence, in comparison to the Democrats on Iraq during the Bush years or the Republicans on health care (at least under Clinton), the Republicans are letting the nation see President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their Porkulus package for what they really are.
No wonder the Democrats are scared. If Porkulus has any money it for the construction of coops, the chickens would be massing, getting ready to come home to roost.
Peter Roff, a former senior writer at United Press International, is a senior fellow at Frontiers of Freedom, an organization that advocates for educational freedom and reform.