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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Desperate GOP Spin

I said some of this in updates to an earlier post, but it bears repeating right now as Republicans desperately try to spin the defeat of the financial bailout bill in the House on Democrats. That’s not terribly surprising, since as of 4:40 p.m. eastern time, the Dow had dropped 777 points, the largest single-day loss in history.
Just to recapitulate: the bill was sponsored, nay demanded by the Republican president of the United States (who just this morning went on the airwaves to threaten economic catastrophe if the bill was defeated) and the Republican Secretary of the Treasury. The specifics were endorsed by the Republican leadership of the House (and the Senate), and by the Republican candidate for president, who as recently as yesterday was bragging about how he had brought House Republicans back into line. It has been understood all along that the legislation needed roughly equal support from both caucuses to survive through the Senate intact.
On the vote, 140 Democrats voted “yea,” and 95 voted “nay,” for a ratio of just under 60%. House Republicans voted 65 “yea” and 133 “nay,” for a ratio of just under 33%. Looks pretty clear that House Republicans killed this bill.
Yet House Republicans held a press conference wherein several of their leaders blamed their own caucus’s overwhelming failure to support the bill on a partisan speech made by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And John McCain’s chief economic advisor blamed Barack Obama, as well as Pelosi, for the Republican votes against the bill.
Amazingly, if somewhat predictably, a lot of the initial MSM reporting on the fiasco reports the ludicrous GOP spin as part of a welter of “politicians pointing fingers.”
But if you want to see how well this spin is wearing over time, look no further than The Corner at National Review, where any GOP-friendly interpretation of today’s events would normally be welcomed.
Here’s Jim Manzi, shortly after the vote:

Well, apparently the House Republicans have decided to run a neat little experiment to test the actual odds of the current financial crisis turning into another Depression in the absence of a bailout plan. What alternative do they propose that could realistically be enacted? How long do they think this would take, and what risks would we run during the period of uncertainty, even if it were successful?
I have no visibility into the current machinations on Capitol Hill, but I’m with Noah Millman: as far as I can see, if I were a senior Democrat right now, I’d introduce a Democratic alternative tomorrow and pass it on a party line vote.

Here’s Ramesh Ponnuru, four minutes later:

Not that it’s the most important fallout, but this vote is very bad for McCain. He was trying to get House Republicans on board, after all, and he failed. Blaming the Democrats for the failure will not and should not work, given the ratios on both sides.
But several conservatives voted for the bill, including Blunt, Boehner, Camp, Cantor, Kline, Lungren, McCrery, Putnam, (Paul) Ryan, Tancredo, Weldon, (Joe) Wilson. I think they made the right call.

Then NR editor Rich Lowry reports on an email from a Republican staffer about the “blame Pelosi” argument and Barney Frank’s mocking response:

Rich – I’m afraid Rep. Frank has a point on this one. Some feelings on the GOP side were hurt, so they voted against the economic well-being of the country?
A very concerned GOP staffer.

Then even K-Lo (Kathryn Jean Lopez) herself, who earlier kept arguing that Democrats should have been able to pass a bill without any Republican votes since they control the House, passed along this damning email from a “Western bank president”:

The failure of the House to pass the bill – combined with the resulting bickering – will likely lead to a substantial market sell-off. We’re seeing part of that occur right now, but we may well see much worse over the coming days as the inevitable sell-off hits overseas markets, followed up by another collapse at home as forced selling really kicks in and many institutional investors are required to liquidate their leveraged positions. While it would be nice if all this was confined to a few select Wall Street bad apples, the reality is ordinary people will be hurt very badly as their investments deteriorate and the economic environment turns even more negative. Unemployment will likely spike sharply from here, and the lack of available credit will impair many small businesses that rely on credit lines to finance their operations.
How any of this could possibly be construed as a positive for either McCain or the Republican Party is beyond me (and I say this as a life-long Republican)? In fact, it would seem much more likely to me that the House Republicans just handed the election to Obama on a silver platter. Blaming the vote on Pelosi’s antagonistic remarks seems especially dumb, and I expect to see Barney Frank-type comments all over the MSM tonight and throughout the week.

Sure, there are a couple of posts reporting happiness with the defeat of the bill, but mainly on grounds that “free-market principles” are worth a very deep recession, and presumably, a Democratic victory in November. Nobody much was buying the idea that the defeat could really be blamed on Democrats.
Let’s hope the MSM treatment of the Republican spin can at least become as skeptical as National Review‘s.

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