Dave Espo of the AP is a pretty good weathervane for the Beltway conventional wisdom. Espo’s latest story on the passage of the stimulus bill suggests that the CW, after focusing obsessively on how this or that step in the bill’s passage represented a defeat for Obama, have finally noticed that he basically got his way, and that the Democratic team at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue has started to deliver the goods.
Friday’s events capped an early period of accomplishment for the Democrats, who won control of the White House and expanded their majorities in Congress in last fall’s elections.
Since taking office on Jan. 20, the president has signed legislation extending government-financed health care to millions of lower-income children who lack it, a bill that President George W. Bush twice vetoed. Obama also has placed his signature on a measure making it easier for workers to sue their employers for alleged job discrimination, effectively overturning a ruling by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
See also Shear and MacGillis in the WaPo:
CHICAGO, Feb. 13 — Twenty-four days into his presidency, Barack Obama recorded last night a legislative achievement of the sort that few of his predecessors achieved at any point in their tenure.
In size and scope, there is almost nothing in history to rival the economic stimulus legislation that Obama shepherded through Congress in just over three weeks. And the result — produced largely without Republican participation — was remarkably similar to the terms Obama’s team outlined even before he was inaugurated: a package of tax cuts and spending totaling about $775 billion.
Espo’s story carries no hint of the earlier widely-repeated nonsense about how the failure of Republicans to vote for the bill even after it had been somewhat tailored to meet their original objections constitutes a defeat for Obama’s post-partisan ambitions. It seems far more likely to constitute an act of collective political self-immolation. The stimulus bill and Obama are both quite popular, and the Republicans just the opposite. The public doesn’t seem to have had nearly as much trouble as, for example, the editorial page of the Washington Post in figuring out which side is extending the hand of friendship and which side is biting it.
I would have thought that, by now, smart observers of the political scene would have developed some hesitancy about claiming that the Obama machine has blundered. Apparently not yet. But Ron Brownstein puts his finger on what seems to me the key fact about Obama as a politician: “flexible about tactics and unwavering in his goals.”
And, I would add, patient. Obama is a low-discount-rate player in a very high-discount-rate town. And he understands what the pundits don’t: this is a repeat-play game. His summary of the stimulus bill: “not 100 percent of what we would want … but a very good start on moving things forward.”