James Forsyth

A costly victory

A costly victory
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The stimulus package is now ready to be signed into law by the President. On the one hand, this is a pretty major legislative achievement for Obama within the first month of his administration. On the other, Obama has taken a few knocks in the process and has lost a decent chunk of his reputation for being able to bring the two parties together and for transparency.

In the House, in both votes not a single Republican voted for it. In the Senate, only three Republicans crossed party lines; the post-conference version of the bill only passed the Senate with the minimum 60 votes. In the meantime, Obama saw his Republican nominee for Commerce Secretary withdraw under political pressure. For good or ill, Obama and the Democrats own the stimulus.

Obama’s reputation for transparency was hurt by the whole sausage-making process of getting the bill passed. As Mike Allen notes in his Playbook, ABC’s Jonathan Karl has reported: “hasty changes were HAND-WRITTEN on it before voting. With the stroke of a pen, $100 million becomes $150 million. $850 million becomes $1 billion.” This is hardly likely to persuade taxpayers that their money is being spent with due care and attention.

To be sure, Obama’s own brand remains strong and he still must be regarded as a firm favourite to win re-election. But his fist few weeks in the job with nominees withdrawing amidst tax scandals, partisan trench warfare on the Hill and the economy still in the tank has shown the new president that, to borrow a phrase, presidenting is hard.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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