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The Missed Opportunity


If the economy starts growing fairly robustly again in the next year, Obama will probably win the stimulus debate politically in the long run, no matter what happens here in coming days and weeks. But Obama has missed a huge opportunity to triangulate against the liberal Congress and position himself firmly to the center. When the House produced its monstrosity, he could have said, as the reaction against it built, that the American people hadn’t elected him to shepherd that kind of partisan, old-style bill to passage. Yes, he could have said, it might seem strange for me to come out against a bill my own party crafted, but it’s a new day in Washington and the responsibility era extends to Capitol Hill too. He could have taken out the longer-term spending, thrown in some more tax cuts, and probably co-opted a slice of Republicans without reducing the overall price tag that drastically. Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t have liked it, but doesn’t Obama have more sway than she does, given that he is (or was) at the height of his popularity and power? Of course, it would have been a risky and gutsy move. It’s easier simply to talk non-partisanship, while rolling along with liberalism’s Old Bulls.


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