The Democrats are slowly managing to make a talking point go viral. I know, holding the House, Senate and the White House would tend to make this somewhat easier, but this is among the first examples of such an outcome.
But politicians, progressive advocacy types and traditional media outlets are all telling the same story at once – that Republicans voted against the Recovery Act, savaged it for an entire year, and yet supported the funding of Recovery Act projects in their individual districts or states. White House communications director-cum-blogger Dan Pfeiffer offers the party line for the political leadership:
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) voted against the Recovery Act twice, but then touted the job-creation and economic development potential of a stimulus-funded high speed rail project in Virginia. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted against the Recovery Act twice but then touted a military project in Kentucky funded by the stimulus as “a source of significant employment.”
They can’t really have it both ways. Yet Recovery Act opponents across the country are trying to do just that: bash the Recovery Act in Washington while taking credit for it at home.
The Center For American Progress created a report showing 111 such acts of hypocrisy, where Republican members of Congress stood in front of oversized novelty checks or otherwise supported stimulus projects they voted against. And the Wall Street Journal is the latest big-media organization to report on it.
Simply put, Democrats have closed Daou’s Triangle. The netroots, the media and the political establishment are offering a similar message, one simple and straightforward enough to pierce the bubble and get pickup. It’s just too easy to contrast John Boehner asking “Where are the stimulus jobs” and John Boehner saying the stimulus will create thousands of construction jobs. Nobody can really ignore that.
The other positive is that this can go local pretty quickly, with every Republican-held district in America a potential location for this hypocrisy. Take this interaction between a blogger and House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, running for US Senate in Missouri:
I went down there thinking I might have an opportunity to ask Representative Blunt his opinion on how the stimulus package was benefiting Springfield, MO. A fair question I thought, since today was the 1st anniversary of the bill, Representative Blunt voted against the bill and here he was touring a project that was funded by the stimulus act.
As Representative Blunt disembarked from the van and started up the steps, I snapped the image leading off this post.
We nodded at each other, he smiled for the camera and I identified myself and asked him if he would care to comment about how President Obama’s stimulus package was benefiting Springfield.
“No comment,” said Representative Blunt.
Springfield received over $500,000 for this project, how do you think this benefited Springfield I asked again.
He stopped as he got ready to enter the elevator and told me I had the wrong project. The project out at the waste treatment plant received stimulus money, not this one.
No sir, I said, the EPA released a press release last August announcing over $500,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Stimulus money) going to the Brownfield Program.
“No comment,” said Representative Blunt as he entered the elevator and the doors closed.
Republicans don’t have much of a response to this, other than “you’d do the same thing if you were me” or something. This effort by Mitch McConnell is particularly weak. He rebuts the claim that he supported a military project in the stimulus that Dan Pfeiffer made by saying that he was talking about different programs on the Blue Grass Army Depot where he has always sought funding. That makes it better, somehow? McConnell has 25 years of support for this Army base but he voted against additional funding for it in the stimulus? That somehow displays his tireless support? Then there was the clever trick of suggesting that this “error,” which isn’t one, “undermines the factual basis for many other of the Democratic National Committee’s claims of hypocrisy among Republicans.” It’s the classic “there’s a typo in the 1,000-page Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change report, therefore global warming isn’t real” argument.
We’ll see how this develops and if it starts actually affecting public opinion on the stimulus. But it’s about time to see some measure of fight from the Democrats.
P.S. Emptywheel rightly notes that Susan Collins and those like her who voted for the bill but cut $100 billion, much of which would have went to fiscal aid for the the states, deserve some scorn here as well.