Obama said earlier today that he wanted to see “additional improvements” to the stimulus bill, without saying what those improvements were. A short while ago, Mara Liasson of NPR pressed Robert Gibbs on what those were.
Gibbs wouldn’t say.
This is a point I wanted to make earlier. Folks objected to the $100 million for new sod on the mall. Folks objected to the funding for family planning. Folks objected to the “Buy American” provision risking a trade war. Each time, Obama saw that the critics had a point, and reached out to Congressional Democrats to get them out of the bill or, in the case of “Buy American,” water it down. And we ought to give Obama a smidgen of credit for saying, ”no, no, no.”
But now we’re on to other areas of spending, like digital TV coupons, a new polar icebreaking ship, new computers for the Department of Agriculture, $78 million to repair two agency headquarters–stuff that may or may not be wasteful, but that pretty clearly is stretching the definition of “stimulus.”
This inability to get Obama to say what kind of changes he sees as improvements and which ones he dismisses as “bickering” reminded me of Jen Rubin’s comments about how we’re witnessing a bit of Obama’s “cool”/calmness/passivity. The President seems frustrated at how the debate is going in Congress, but if he wants to speed it along, he has to start addressing the specific objections to what’s in the bill.
Obama is saying, simultaneously, “the time for talk is over” and that he also wants to see the bill improved. The message is, “I want additional efforts to improve it, but stop debating and pass it.”