Political analyst Charlie Cook tells The Washington Post
Democratic Congress' hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending -
and the legislation's failure to lower the unemployment rate - was the
turning point that may bring Republicans back to power in next week's
"I have never seen an economic stimulus completely discredited before," Cook told Post columnist and former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson. "But it was."
According to Gerson, "Cook says the decisive political moment came in
the summer of 2009, as unemployment remained well above 9 percent
'when it wasn't supposed to get to 8.2 percent,'" as Cook noted, describing the campaign promises of President Obama and other Democrats.
Cook also faulted Obama's focus on what Gerson called "irrelevant
ambitions," especially the Obamacare health reform. Cook said, "any
one-party government right now would be paying a horrific price," but
what has happened under Obama and a Congress run by House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is that "every
month, every week, every day that Washington seemed focused on health
care instead of the economy frightened people," according to Cook. "It seemed out of touch."
Democrats were less interested in fixing the economy than in enacting
their big-government agenda, Cook told the Post. "In a difficult economic climate," he said, Obama and Congress' Democratic leaders "seemed to check the box on the economy, so they could quickly move on to climate change and health care. Like they were going through the motions."
Moreover, ObamaCare and cap-and-trade were viewed as attacks on the
private sector, according to Cook, at a time when new non-government
jobs were desperately needed.
"If you gave Democratic leaders truth serum and asked, 'Do you hate
business?' they would say 'no' and pass the test," Cook told Gerson.
"But it would be hard to convince a lot of businesspeople. Democrats
were tone-deaf to how their actions would be perceived."
Ironically, Gerson - who coined the phrase "compassionate conservatism" - may have been the figure in the Bush White House who was least interested in restraining government spending. He pushed hard to lavish monies on spending programs to combat AIDS in Africa and other countries, as well as expenditures to combat domestic poverty within the U.S.
Soon after leaving the White House, Gerson wrote "Heroic Conservatism," a new manifesto for the Republican Party decrying "the elevation of personal and economic freedom over other values like compassion and community"; skepticism of government solutions is "an adolescent disillusionment" in Gerson's view. The American Spectator's James Antle accused Gerson of succumbing "to the temptation to ape liberalism."
The latest Cook Political Report forecasts a Republican net gain of as many as 60 seats in the House of Representatives, which would tip majority status into GOP hands. In the U.S. Senate, Cook sees a 7-to-9 seat net gain for Republicans, where there are currently 57 Democratic senators plus two independents who caucus with Democrats; Republicans at present hold 41 Senate seats.
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