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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Drudgico Pops The Bubble

by digby

They have no self-awareness at all, not even the slightest bit of humility or self-doubt. They just lay it out there.

They are not entirely wrong on every point. There are some eternaltruths contained in their little scold, although it's very interesting that they are only now discovering them.

Seven reasons for healthy skepticism

By: Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris

Even in a city of cynics, the Inauguration of a new president — and the infusion of new ideas, new personalities and new energy that comes with it — summons feelings of reverence.

Barack Obama, especially, is the object of inaugural good feelings. He has assembled an impressive White House and Cabinet team. The country is clearly in his corner. With the economy gasping, and two wars dragging on sullenly, even many Republicans who ordinarily might enjoy seeing Obama fail now root for him to succeed. The stakes are simply too great.

Amid all these high hopes, it may seem needlessly sour to point out why expectations must be kept in check. But it is also realistic.

Here are seven reasons to be skeptical of Obama’s chances — and the Washington establishment he now leads:

1. The genius fallacy

Basically this just says that now that the Democratic grown-ups are back in town we no longer like grown-ups.

2. The herd instinct

This one is interesting. They noticed that a lot of bad policy was implemented by bipartisan votes in the last few congresses. So, now they are against bipartisanship. At least the kind where both parties fall in line behind the president. They seem to have no problem with bipartisanship wherein the Democratic president implements Republican policies.

Indeed, their main concern about excessive bipartisanship is that the Republicans will allow president Obama to enact a stimulus plan:

3. We are broke.

Wouldn't you know it?

Apparently, they think this business about a terrible recession and a financial crisis is just an excuse to spend money:

The past several months have produced a rare convergence. Something that politicians of both parties find pleasurable — spending money — has overlapped with what economists and policy experts of all ideological stripes said is urgently necessary. As “Saturday Night Live’s” Church Lady used to say, “How convenient.”

One month from now, Democrats will likely have passed the massive stimulus bill and Obama will have signed it into law. The new Treasury Department will be well on its way to spending the second $350 billion chunk of the $700 billion bank bailout fund.

After this rush of activity, the ability to spend during the balance of Obama’s first term — never mind if there is a second — will be sharply constrained.

Instead, the new administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill will awaken to another first: the prospect of the national deficit approaching $2 trillion. For most, these numbers are simply too big to ponder. But ponder this: This country has never reckoned with deficits like these.

So, guess what happens next:

Wait, it gets worse. Remember those entitlement programs the elderly and poor need more than ever: Social Security and Medicare? In budget terms, they are more troubled than ever.

Social Security’s surpluses “begin to decline in 2011 and then turn into rapidly growing deficits as the baby boom generation retires,” according to one recent report. “Medicare’s financial status,” the report said, “is even worse.”

Basically, the government needs more money than ever at a time when people are losing jobs, income and confidence.

According to all the smart people Social Security is in imminent trouble --- a casual reader might even think it was going broke in two years.(That must be why my very ancient Dad was asking me the other day if I thought he had enough money to last him because his social security was running out.)

So, before we even get started, the wealthy elites of the political media have laid down the gauntlet. They'll put up with the spending that's needed to bail out the banks of course and they'll allow Obama to have his stimulus. But it's with the clear understanding that they expect him to pony up on the back end with "entitlement reform."

4. Words, words, words

Basically, this says that Obama's gift of oratory and persuasion is nothing but hot air and that he's naive if he thinks he can use the bully pulpit to any good effect.

In other news, George W. Bush is apparently no longer the reincarnation of Winston Churchill.

This one is really rich:

He rarely challenges the home team.

Obama frequently talks of the need to transcend partisanship. And he invokes his support for charter schools — a not-terribly-controversial idea — as evidence that he is willing to challenge Democratic special interest groups.

In fact, there are few examples of him making decisions during the campaign or the transition that offended his own party’s constituencies, or using rhetoric that challenged his own supporters to rethink assumptions or yield on a favored cause.

Has Obama ever delivered a “Sister Souljah speech”? Ever stood up to organized labor in the way that Clinton did in passing North American Free Trade Agreement?

This is not a good sign. By Obama’s lights, the national interest usually coincides with his personal interest. Back to you, Church Lady.

There's a shocker. He hasn't stuck it to the liberals enough to get their respect.

I'm not sure what they are looking for. Perhaps he could really screw us good by endorsing torture? (I thought FISA was a jolly good soljahing, but I guess it wasn't sexy enough.) He could escalate the war in Iraq, I guess. That would certainly hurt.

But let's get serious here. This is really how the villagers define bipartisanship: it's when both parties screw liberals in order to gain the respect of the permanent establishment. Inviting the oily Rick Warren to speak at the inaugural obviously didn't get that job done. In fact, considering how he's stretched his trust among the liberal base with his blatant cozying up to the right and his constant hectoring about "ideology" being the root of all evil, it looks to me as if he's going to have to do something really huge in terms of policy to prove to these people that he can give his liberal base a proper rogering. Unfortunately for him, conservative policies have been so discredited that he will only end up screwing himself. Not to mention the country.

Liberalism is all he has at the moment if he wants to succeed.

Everyone is winging it.

True. And that means something terrible is going to happen. I would agree. Especially if the administration pays even the slightest attention to what these people think.

The watchdogs are dozing.

The big media companies that once invested in serious accountability journalism are shells of their former selves. The Tribune Co. — in other words, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune...

“The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise,” McClellan wrote. “In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

Rigorous reporting is even more important when you have one-party rule in Washington. Democrats, like Republicans, are simply less likely to scrutinize a president of their own. The end result here: Don’t expect the Democratic Congress to investigate the Obama administration or hold a bunch of tough oversight hearings. That means the only real check on Obama is the same one it’s always been — the voters.

This from the people who admit that Drudge rules their world. Whatever. (I don't know why it never occurs to people that there may be some cause and effect at work.)

A lot of this is just beltway navel gazing. But the two vital points they make that are very dangerous to the country's health are the insistence that the country is too broke to fix its problems (at least without putting the old and the sick on the ice flow --- if it wasn't melting) and the idea that in order to be taken seriously Obama simply has to do more to stab his own supporters in the back with a serious folly like NAFTA. These are very, very insidious pieces of conventional wisdom that we are seeing all over the political media and unless the Obama team starts challenging them, they are going to be stuck with far less room to maneuver than they need.

I don't know how many of you recall the Clinton inauguration, but there was a similarity of style if not scope in the way the media went gaga --- and then turned on a dime. The Republicans were much stronger then, the times were less challenging and the election didn't have the historic cast that this one does. But it did have the same sense of giddy excitement among the cognoscenti that rapidly deteriorated into an aggressive hostility almost overnight. Nothing ever repeats itself exactly --- and the Obama team seems to have learned from that experience --- but the forces of the status quo are strong and they will work with all their might to ensure that they are not required to have their own "skin in the game." That's for the little people.

So, assuming that Obama has the intention of making bargains with these people, or even choosing one from column A and one from column B, he must recognize that they don't actually believe in bargains and they don't share. They see themselves as the owners of the country, period. The basic question for Obama, for any president, is whether he sees himself as one of them or one of us.

Update: Steve Benen has more on this.