The president-elect’s rhetoric at the “We Are One” celebration yesterday was superb, and it will almost certainly be tomorrow. Barack Obama is a gifted orator when he’s working from a prepared text, and tomorrow’s address is almost certain to be memorable.
The problem for the new Adminstration trying to position itself in the center and extend to the right is the Democratic Congress and especially its very vocal and very left wing leadership. Speaker Pelosi went on with Chris Wallace and mused about prosecuting Republicans for “politicizing” the Department of Justice, by which I assume she means the firing of some U.S. Attorneys. I have yet to see one serious analysis of why the dumping of even superb lawyers is a crime, though surely it was a massive blunder. But that doesn’t deter the Speaker’s desire for a little more political blood.
“We cannot let the politicizing of, for example, the Justice Department to go unreviewed,” Pelosi told Wallace. “I want to see the truth come forth.”
This is exactly the sort of partisan hyperventilation that candidate Obama denounced, and if he doesn’t separate himself from it, it undermines all of his appeals to the country to support a period of bipartisan legislation. The Speaker wants payback to satisfy her hard left base, but the president-elect must know that there is zero political advantage to pressing an attack on the already left-town Bush officials.
Last week’s unveiling of the House’s ridiculous “stimulus” package that was a shopping list of goodies for Democratic special interests was another step backward for the president-elect. He has an opportunity to spend a near trillion dollars, and to fashion a lasting legacy in the first month of his Adminsitration with a coherent, focused program. But instead of a serious push in one direction such as a new power grid and the nuclear plants and wind turbines to operate it, Team Pelosi drafted a long list of payoffs to various ward bosses. Never would so much have been spent on so many projects with so little to show for it, except a message as to who was in charge. House Democrats clearly intended to tell the president-elect that they would be running the domestic agenda, thank you very much. And when he didn’t push back, the president-elect certainly confirmed the impression that Speaker Pelosi is indeed running the legislative show.
Tomorrow will be a celebration, and then the real show begins Wednesday. Will Senate Democrats join with their colleagues in the House in telegraphing to the young and very inexperienced newcomer that he gets to make the speeches and they get to make the laws?
Or will the president-elect decide to actually demand a stimulus that works, leaves a legacy and opens an era? The GOP is mostly on the sidelines, but there’s plenty of conflict about to play out.
One note to the GOP: On Friday I contacted four offices of senior Republicans seeking a guest to talk about the stimulus bill. Everyone had left for the home front, which is business as usual.
Business as usual will guarantee that no significant gains are made in 2010. At a minimum the NRCC and the NRSC has to designate the “on call” members for every Friday-Saturday-Sunday cycle. Even late night Sunday radio shows in small markets are opportunities that shouldn’t be missed. Acting like a majority means remaining in the minority for years to come.