Test One for Obama: Urgency Wins Out Over Change

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John Dickerson at Slate points out one of the unfortunate truths behind the stimulus bill: the process didn’t go as President Obama promised. All that election rhetoric about being more thoughtful and more transparent fell to the wayside as our new President chose expediency over all other considerations.

If you’re going to spend nearly $800 billion dollars, there should be some serious discussions about priorities. But there wasn’t. If you’re going to make complex compromises to get the House and the Senate to agree on final legislation, those proceedings shouldn’t be behind closed doors. But they were.

Over three weeks into the Obama administration and we’re still waiting for change to come to Washington.

Of course, Obama’s positions are not indefensible. A sense of urgency was necessary and he didn’t have a lot of time to change the secretive, backroom culture of Congress. Furthermore, one can make the argument that the debate about national priorities was held and won by Democrats over the last two elections. The stimulus bill is just the end result.

Except the stimulus bill was not the proper place for Democrats to enforce their agenda. Stimulating the economy is a “does it work or doesn’t it work” problem. Every provision in the package should have been evaluated on its stimulus merits, not on whether or not it’s a cause Democrats support. The party has plenty of time to advance its agenda through more direct means. But the party took the easiest road available and is using parts of the stimulus bill to fund a victory march for the left.

None of this is to say there aren’t many good aspects of the bill There are. But the route this bill took towards passage hardly fits with the ideals Obama promoted during the election. Sure, he has plenty of time to bring us together and is even using Lincoln’s 200th birthday to spread the message of unity once again.

But if this stimulus fails, it will fail because Obama and the Democrats chose expediency and politics-as-usual over thoughtfulness and earnest debate. They own this bill. Hopefully future legislation will pass with a more bipartisan spirit.