Wednesday, February 11, 2009

# Posted 2:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OBAMA LIVE! The President held his first live news conference last night. I thought it was very interesting how Obama kept attacking the same strawman, an alleged group of Republicans that would rather do "nothing" than support the stimulus package. In his final answer of the night, Obama said
And so when I hear people just saying, "Ah, we don't need to do anything," "This is a spending bill, not a stimulus bill," without acknowledging that, by definition, part of any stimulus package would include spending -- that's the point -- then what I get a sense of is, is that there's some ideological blockage there that needs to be cleared up.
I'm surprised Obama rolled out that talking point again about how critics don't understand that a stimulus package is a spending package. There is a serious debate going on about what kind of spending is actually stimulative, but the President preferred to write off any position except his own as "ideological blockage". He also dismissed his critics as unserious in his first answer of the night:
There have been criticisms from a bunch of different directions about this bill, so let me just address a few of them.

Some of the criticisms really are with the basic idea that government should intervene at all in this moment of crisis. Now, you have some people, very sincere, who philosophically just think the government has no business interfering in the marketplace. And, in fact, there are several who've suggested that FDR was wrong to interfere back in the New Deal. They're fighting battles that I thought were resolved a pretty long time ago.
What's especially interesting is how Obama tries to validate his caricature of Republican critics by praising the "sincerity" with which they hold their outlandish positions:
As I said, the one concern I've got on the stimulus package, in terms of the debate and listening to some of what's been said in Congress, is that there seems to be a set of folks who -- I don't doubt their sincerity -- who just believe that we should do nothing.

Now, if that's their opening position or their closing position in negotiations, then we're probably not going to make much progress, because I don't think that's economically sound and I don't think what -- that's what the American people expect, is for us to stand by and do nothing.
An interesting variation on this approach is to caricature the critics' "philosophical" position, then assert that this caricature is undermining "respectful debate":
Now, maybe philosophically you just don't think that the federal government should be involved in energy policy. I happen to disagree with that; I think that's the reason why we find ourselves importing more foreign oil now than we did back in the early '70s when OPEC first formed.

And we can have a respectful debate about whether or not we should be involved in energy policymaking, but don't suggest that somehow that's wasteful spending. That's exactly what this country needs.
Of course, if these advanced tactics don't work, you can just suggest your critics are completely out to lunch:
And there have been others on the Republican side or the conservative side who said, "No matter how much money you spend, nothing makes a difference, so let's just blow up the public school systems."
The bombing begins in five minutes....
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