The Stimulus Bill: The Republicans Iraq War Resolution
In 2002 in the run-up to the war in Iraq, Democrats in Congress faced a dilemma. In the aftermath of 9/11, President George W. Bush, realizing that kicking the Iraq can down the road was no longer an option, was determined to deal with Saddam Hussein forthwith. Public opinion was very much for the war, in even greater percentages then now support Obama (upwards of 70% according to the LA Times). On the one hand, Congressional Democrats, worried that a successful Iraqi operation would push Bush’s already high popularity rating into the stratosphere, were determined to have a piece of the action. But their increasingly kooky left-wing base, opposed to any military action especially one that could benefit US interests, was howling against the war and vowing electoral retribution on those who supported it. What resulted was a split in the Democratic Party, with conservative Democrats and those with national aspirations voting for the Iraq War resolution, while the more ideological and those with solidly leftist seats opposing it. After the public turned on the war, Democrats who supported it found their vote to be an albatross around their necks they could not overcome. Any Democrat who voted for the war was a target to the now emboldened left. Their votes on the war, more than anything else, is what cost Senators John Kerry, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton the presidency. Barack Obama’s (meaningless) opposition to the war greatly enhanced his appeal to the leftist base, catapulting him over the Clinton machine first as a front runner, later as a candidate, and ultimately to the White House.
The “stimulus” bill currently under consideration in Congress will likely have the same impact on Republicans. Republicans, afraid to take on The One With The Greatest Popularity Ever, are considering voting for a bill which they know is not stimulus and is nothing more then a venting of eight years of spending frustration by the Democrats. Unlike the Iraq War however, which after major setbacks is on track to be successful, one does not need the benefit of hindsight to be absolutely certain that the “stimulus” bill will fail in its’ stated goal i.e. fixing the economy. What is more than likely is for the economy to continue to worsen for a while before it gets better, leaving us with additional trillions in debt and deficits with nothing to show for it. Every Republican who votes for it now will be scrambling to explain away their vote, and those with national aspirations will find themselves saddled with their own “stimulus deficit” which will be hard to overcome.
Republicans would also be wise to realize that there is nothing to be gained politically by supporting this bill, as all credit, real or made up will be claimed by Obama and the Democrats with the enthusiastic support of their buddies in the media.
So while there are many principled reasons to oppose this “stimulus” bill, if nothing else there is hope that enlightened self-interest will give Republicans the push they need to see past temporary, narrow political circumstance and do the right thing.