I had a long conversation with my mom last night about the House Republicans’ unanimous rejection of the $825 billion stimulus package. She’s been harboring concerns that President Obama will roll over and sacrifice his beliefs to try and appease the Republican party, and I tried to convince her that this is not an issue. Instead, I conjectured, what Obama is doing is very elegantly playing the Republican party for a bunch of fools. Here’s why.

  • The Republican Congressional delegation is incredibly unpopular right now.
  • President Obama is insanely popular. So much so, in fact, that he even enjoys a 60% approval rating in Alabama. Seriously!
  • The Democratic members of the House and Senate are reasonably popular.
  • The US economy is in a seeming state of freefall right now.
  • Americans are scared about losing their jobs, their homes, their livelihoods, and their ability to provide their children with a better future. Consequently, they are supporting the stimulus legislation.

President Obama has made a very big deal about being bipartisan or post-partisan, and needs to stick to his guns on this, at least for now. If he did not make concessions to the House Republicans on the stimulus package, or on other matters right now, he could (very rightly) be accused of being just another politician.

The House Republicans, bless their shiny black hearts, voted unanimously against the stimulus package even after they received plenty of concessions, and just before they headed over to the White House for a celebratory cocktail party, thereby demonstrating that they are the ones who are playing politics with Americans’ livelihoods. Dumb dumb dumb. Here’s Nate Silver on the topic:

Boenher and Eric Cantor have obviously done an impressive job of rallying their troops -- and Cantor, in particular, seems proud of his efforts. But what grander purpose does this strategy serve? The House Republicans are opposing popular legislation from a very popular President, and doing so in ways that stick a needle in the eye of the popular (if quixotic) concept of bipartisanship. They would seem to have little chance of actually blocking this legislation, since they are far short of a majority, and since the Senate Republicans, who can filibuster, have thus far shown little inclination to go along with them -- with moderates like Susan Collins of Maine and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire voting routinely with the Administration.

So, why are House Republicans playing such brazen partisan politics with something as important as the US economy? It’s simple, really. They won’t be able to take credit for the stimulus bill if and when it’s signed into law, which means it wouldn’t benefit them during the 2010 election cycle. Their only recourse is to tack as far as they can to the nutty right, and hope that the stimulus bill fails miserably, thus further depressing the US economy. You gotta love the insanity of this, really. The Republican party cares so much about being in power that they are willing to sacrifice their own country for it. Principled much?

So, I told my mom all of this, and she was somewhat relieved, but still deeply concerned that Obama will still sacrifice his principles. I told her not to worry. This was the same man who never listened to the blogosphere and punditocracy’s bleating and grunting about how he was going to lose to Hillary in the Primary and John in the General if continued running the same campaign. Duh, he won, and quite spectacularly, in fact.

President Obama always gives his opponent (or opponents) the benefit of the doubt, and lets them throw the first punch. This is critical, as it enhances the sense that he’s not playing the same old political games. He tries to listen to criticism, incorporate people into his fold, and “crushes” them if they try to screw him. Here, take a gander: