Lacking All Conviction: Atrios:
So let’s say Obama’s people have correctly deduced that there’s no chance in hell of getting anything through Congress. They have two basic options. First, they could get on the teevee every day and say, “This is my plan to help. Republicans in Congress won’t pass it.” They could hold rallies in Maine. Allies could run ads. At least people would know who is for and who is against…and just what it was that people are for or against.
Option two is back off proposals you’ve previously made and have Axelrod get on the teevee and say, “there is some argument for additional spending in the short-run to continue to generate economic activity.”
I have no idea what they’re thinking. It would be one thing if polls suggested a tolerable outcome in November, so that playing it safe could possibly make sense as a political strategy. But that’s not the way it is; and it’s hard to see what possible motivation there is for pulling punches. Going for your opponent’s capillaries when you yourself are bleeding heavily?
IT'S STILL THE ECONOMY, STUPID, CONT'D: .The New York Times reported last weekend that there's a divide within the White House when it comes to the economy. Political advisors, including David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, see the polling data and are inclined to respond to public concerns about government spending and deficits. The economic team, including Christina Romer, Jared Bernstein, and Tim Geithner, see the economic data and are inclined to actually try to create more jobs and generate more growth. We were reminded again of this divide today. ABC's Jake Tapper spoke to Axelrod about the economy, and the senior White House advisor took the expected line.
In his February budget proposal, the president requested $266 billion for additional stimulus for the economy. And just a month ago, the President called for $50 billion in emergency aid to states alongside the extension of unemployment benefits. This morning Axelrod called again for extension of unemployment benefits, but aid to states was not on his list.
"It's true that there is not a great desire" on Capitol Hill to spend more money, Axelrod said, "even though there is some argument for additional spending in the short-run to continue to generate economic activity."
"There's not a great appetite for it, but I do think we can get additional tax relief for small businesses -- that's what we want to do -- additional lending for small businesses," the President's senior advisor said.
And that was all Axelrod was prepared to endorse -- extended unemployment employments (Axelrod said it's something we "ought" to do, as opposed to "must"), and extended tax cuts for small businesses. Axelrod acknowledged that there's "some argument" for additional short-term stimulus, but it wasn't an argument he was necessarily prepared to endorse....
My sense is that President Obama really hates -- and actively avoids -- picking fights he fully expects to lose. Based on his public comments and proposals, I'd say the president really does endorse his economists' approach and wants additional stimulus, but doesn't want to go the mat to fight for spending he's not going to get. The defeat would leave him weaker, exacerbate intra-party tensions, and at the same time signal that the White House lacks confidence in the strength of the economic recovery.
But the current alternative is far worse, especially given the fact that the White House should lack confidence in the strength of the economic recovery. It makes a lot more sense to push an ambitious jobs bill -- like, now -- invite Republicans to do what they always do, give Democrats something to fight for, and have the debate....
Yes, Republicans will block any measure intended to improve the economy, and it's largely too late for a new stimulus effort to boost the economy before November. But it's still worth having the fight -- force the GOP to stand in the way of job creation, and show the public that Democrats are prepared to fight to improve on an unsatisfactory status quo.