Alex Massie

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Arizona's John Kyl had this to say about the Republican attitude to the stimulus package:

"They can cram down a stimulus package without Republican support," said Kyl, "but if that happens, then when, as we believe, in six months or so, when the American people say, 'Wait a minute, we're not better off. In fact, we're worse off than we were six months ago. Who is responsible for this and what can be done to fix it?' Republicans then are going to be in a position to say, 'We didn't have the input in this and that's why it didn't work.'"

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Obviously, it doesn't take a mammoth brain to work out how furiously the GOP would have denounced Democratic "obstructionalism" were the parties positions reversed. Equally, Republicans would have worked themseves up into a frothing lather over "unpatriotic" liberals who were betting on America's failure and denying the American people's ability to see themselves through this current moment of dfficulty. American pluck and sweat and work would prevail, no matter how much these libruls might prefer to "talk America down"...

But of course the GOP are now in opposition. Democrats wanted the ball; now they have it. Let's see what they do with it. That's the price of victory. Even allowing for a good deal of political opportunism on the part of many Republican Congresscritters there's a dollop of principle at stake too. Indeed, Andrew himself says that he'd have voted against the bill.

Even allowing for the extent to which bipartisanship is fetishised in Washington there's still something odd about demanding that the opposition, barely ten weeks after the election, fall into line behind the governing parties ideas. A spot more partisanship at times wouldn't be a bad thing. If nothing else, there might be something to be said for bills stuffed with bad ideas from only one party rather than both.

But, look, the Democrats wanted the ball. Now they have it. Let's see what they can do. But the opposition is under no obligation to wave the Democrats through. This is supposed to be tackle, not flag, football. As I say, maybe the GOP position is cynical and perhaps it's misguided but it's not illogical. I'd much rather see the opposition, you know, oppose. There were times during the Bush administration when, as Andrew would agree, we could have done with a bit more of that. (And I'd add that opposing legislation for cynical reasons is certainly preferrable to backing legislation you don't agree with - eg, Iraw war or the PATRIOT act - for fear that opposing it will prove unpopular.)

As I say, even allowing for the mania for comity and presuming that the GOP are acting out of cynicism rather than a newly rediscovered sense of principle, there's nothing much wrong with opposing the Democrats simply for the sake of opposition. Th Democrats have their mandate, let them use it. I don't see why the GOP should really be expected to help them with that.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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