The Republican Party, with Nevada’s Sen. John Ensign among those leading the charge, has decided that it’s going to gamble on opposing the economic stimulus package no matter what. The GOP thinks this is smart politics, that it will trigger a party resurgence in the 2010 elections.
It won’t work. President Obama is too clever to allow the Republicans to get the upper hand on the stimulus package. First and foremost, he’s on the right side of history here. But he also is using his campaign savvy and his vast organization to make sure the American people see through the GOP’s cynical strategy.
Witness this morning’s announcement from the president that heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar will rehire some laid-off workers if the stimulus bill passes. Caterpillar eliminated 22,000 jobs last month amid the dramatic downturn in construction.
This is real-world stuff, not the tired rhetoric of conservative carpers. And I’m certain that Caterpillar is not the only company that will be doing some hiring when the stimulus package takes effect. We’re talking tens of billions of dollars that will be spent, with 90 percent of the money going into the private sector.
New York Times columnist Bob Herbert aptly summarizes the dilemma facing the foundering GOP:
“There is always a tendency to underestimate Barack Obama. We are inclined in the news media to hyperventilate over every political or policy setback, no matter how silly or insignificant, while Obama has shown again and again that he takes a longer view. . . . I think the president is a more formidable opponent than they [Republicans] realize. Obama is like a championship chess player, always several moves ahead of friend and foe alike.”
The stimulus is desperately needed to jumpstart an economy that is tumbling down a hillside. Nevada, among the hardest-hit states, will benefit greatly. The mix of tax cuts and spending initiatives makes sense. After some haggling over the details, it will be done, probably in the next few days. Obama, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Reps. Shelley Berkely and Dina Titus, both D-Nev., will win this one, and then he will move on to the next big challenge.
GOP members of Congress could have worked with the president and celebrated this victory alongside him. Instead, they will nurse their latest round of wounds.