With the stimulus package battle seeming to draw toward a close, President Obama is packing his bags and heading out for a town hall meeting in Indiana. The timing may seem spot on, but the venue raises some questions.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says Obama wants to go where the nation’s economic problems are “acute” as part of his “his effort to convince Congress to move swiftly.”
This area did not vote for Obama in November, but The Elkhart Truth newspaper is on board with that message now. “President Obama needs to help Congress understand that the stimulus package isn’t about politics. It’s about survival,” the newspaper said in a Sunday editorial.
Monday’s visit will be Obama’s third trip to Elkhart — he stopped by twice during the presidential campaign — but his first trip outside Washington as president to meet face-to-face with average citizens.
In a quasi-retrospective way of thinking, this might almost make sense. Obama has been on the campaign trail for so long that he likely doesn’t even remember operating in any other mode. He ran a strong and obviously effective election battle by taking his message directly to the people as often as possible in any venue that would offer him a soap box and a crowd. But if I may be so bold as to offer an observation and a suggestion to the Commander in Chief… the election is over. You won. Now there are irons in the fire that require tending and it’s time to get to work.
There is still time to try to drag Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi into a room with the Republican leadership and turn this into Obama’s bill, rather than some Frankenstein creation of the DNC. I’m not talking about “fixing” the current bill by tomorrow night. What he could do, however, is put the brakes on for a few days or a couple of weeks. We were rushed over a cliff on TARP and we’ve all seen how that worked out. With a little more time this project could still be chopped up into three pieces:
Things we can do now
Things we can do in 2010 and 2011
Democratic spending items in a future omnibus bill
From all the reactions I’m seeing in the mainstream press, a suggestion like the one above is viewed as rank insanity, but for the life of me I can’t see why. If Obama allows this bill to slide through under the Democratic leadership’s knuckle, his vision of a post-partisan, new America working together for a bright future melts into just another four year cycle of political rhetoric which we’ve heard far too many times before. Today is the time to be in the trenches salvaging what will doubtless be one of the defining moments of Obama’s first (and if he’s lucky, not only) term. It’s not a moment to drop back into election mode and head off for a campaign rally.