It's not the nihilists

Bunny: That's Ulee. He's a nihilist.
The Dude: Must be exhausting.


David Brooks is a smart guy, so he should know this, but I'm going to tell him anyway, Not all opposition to the bailout plan is created equally. In what passes for his column today, however, he conveniently links it all together, the better to scapegoat the lot of them. It's easier that way.

As I've said before, I'm no economist, and I don't know exactly what ought to be done in this situation. I know that the original plan stunk out loud because it reeked of the tactics Naomi Klein described in The Shock Doctrine and because it made no sense to give a blank check to an administration that was 1) on its way out the door and 2) had already proven itself to be both criminal and incompetent. And I didn't like the latest one because it didn't provide any relief for homeowners who are going through bankruptcy. I hope the failure yesterday moves the negotiators back toward that position--I suspect it won't, but I can hope.

But let's be clear on this. As Nate Silver points out, what killed this bill was the combination of 198 staunch Republicans from safe seats and those Congress members who are in tight races. Now, electorally speaking, it's hard to fault those members who are in tight races--this was a hugely unpopular bill yesterday, although it's less likely to be so today. But what's the deal with those Republicans?Some of the opposition is principled, no doubt, but all of it? Give me a break. As Barney Frank noted yesterday, it's amazing how the exact number of Republicans needed to kill the bill were apparently offended by Speaker Pelosi's speech. I believe in coincidence, but I'm not stupid.

Brooks asks if Frank took into account the 98 Democrats who voted against this bill. He did. Apparently, during the negotiations, the Democrats told their Republican counterparts that they needed a hundred votes to pass this bill, because of Democratic defectors. The Republican negotiators failed to come through. I don't know if they were bargaining in bad faith--it wouldn't be the first time--or if the negotiators were sandbagged by their own party, but this bill didn't fail because of a lack of preparation on the part of the people writing it.

In the end, I think that Brooks is trying to give everyone who voted against this bill a bit of an out by calling them nihilists. They aren't. Those who voted no because there weren't any protections for homeowners took a principled stand, as did those who were adamantly opposed to any bailout from the beginning. But those are the marginal characters in the House--the Ron Pauls and Dennis Kucinichs. It's the partisans in the House who put party first who are to blame, and they're not nihilists. They're just assholes.

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