Thus far, the dominant story concerning Team Obama’s performance during the Presidential transition has been to focus on how smooth and operationally effective it has been. And to be sure, there is a lot about the operation of the transition that impresses even the most cynical observer.
But no political operation is perfect and even political operations that start out as being effective can end up sowing seeds of disaster for the operators in question.
Why do I bring this up?
Oh, probably because of this:
Democratic leaders are increasingly concerned that they won’t be able to offer an economic stimulus package for congressional debate until late January because they haven’t received a plan from President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team.
Democrats initially had hoped to unveil details of the economic recovery package this week and to pass it by Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, so it would be ready for Mr. Obama’s signature soon after his swearing-in. Estimates are that the plan will call for spending as much as $850 billion over two years.
“The weak economy demands quick action, and that is our intention,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said in an interview Tuesday. “But significant work remains to be done. We need to do this right and make wise investments, plus members and the public need time to review it. So the timing very well may slip.”
Rep. David Obey (D., Wis.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, added, “I had been hoping that the timetable would be this week” for having a proposal in hand.
But Mr. Obey said Mr. Obama’s team, which recently met with congressional committee leaders, is still determining the details of the package it wants.
“The Obama people are still trying to chew through all of that, to decide what they think works and what doesn’t at this stage,” Mr. Obey said.
Once Mr. Obama’s aides come up with a package, he added, congressional Democrats will have to negotiate with them over the details.
“First we’ve got to have some signals called by Obama,” Mr. Obey said. “It’s hard to negotiate with somebody if the other party hasn’t decided what they want out of the negotiations.”
Either there is a Keynesian stimulus plan that is very heavily under wraps at the present time, or the transition team has slipped up on preparing the key piece of legislation that needs to be considered by the Obama Administration and the next Congress. All I know is that when the Reagan Administration was preparing to come into office, David Stockman worked to put out an economic package as fast as possible so that the Reagan Administration could take Congress by storm with it. And they did; flustered by their huge general election losses and the operational effectiveness of the Reagan Administration’s lobbying team, Democrats were not really able to put up anything resembling a fight.
Will the Obama Administration be able to match the Reagan Administration’s legislative success? Probably–they will still have the advantage of dealing with a compliant Congress. But in some sense, things are not starting out all that promisingly on the legislative front, are they?