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 February, 2009


 The Debate Over the President's Stimulus

The Rebirth of Common Sense

For me, today, a departure. I will not be discussing politics. It’s about Republicans, which, if you’ve been paying attention lately, have nothing to do with politics as we know it.

They were given a spanking in November.

December found them thrashing around for a message.

In January they were merely bystanders to history.

February hasn’t helped them at all.

What’s next? The Republican Party needs some kind of stimulus plan to save the Republican Party. Maybe they can have a bake sale. Anybody wanna buy some humble pie?

They’ve tried, and with hilarious futility, to warn us The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the economic stimulus plan) won’t solve anything. So far, most Americans have responded with a resounding “how would you know?”

Despite the Republican predictions of the dire consequences of that stimulus, President Obama’s job approval numbers haven’t taken a measurable hit. In fact, a recent Gallup poll showed that Americans prefer Obama by a whopping 67% to 31% over Republicans regarding the economic stimulus plan.

Yet, to find any objective reason to dispense my ever-creeping feeling that the Republican Party is becoming an organization that sees “tax cuts” as the cure to every problem – I spent a couple of days watching C-SPAN coverage of the Senate debate on the stimulus.

Never have I seen so many Republicans say the exactly same thing so many times – as if they were saying something original.

That’s their problem. The unison chorus that greeted the stimulus was, at once, sad and, well, sadder.

I present for you Exhibit A. John McCain, who on December 17th, 2007, admitted to the Boston Globe “The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should.”

McCain happened to be the very person who trotted out the Republican’s counter-stimulus package in 2009.

That, “my friends,” was a mistake of monumental proportions.

McCain stood on the floor of the Senate and chided Democrats for having “not one penny for defense, not one penny,” in their stimulus bill. Oops. It only took Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) about a minute to remind everybody why we’re all so lucky there’s no President McCain.

Durbin corrected McCain. McCain rushed back to the microphone and announced, “I would like to acknowledge that I was incorrect in that statement.”

How wrong? Well, McCain’s counter-stimulus bill contained a half billion dollars LESS in defense spending than did the Democrat’s. That’s how wrong. It was yet another reason why an understanding of basic arithmetic (that $4 billion dollars is really less than $4.5 billion) is essential when lecturing the American people on the “fundamentals of the economy.”

Meanwhile, there were frequent claims (questionable ones) that the Democrats had frozen Republicans out of the process. Yet there was no evidence the three Republicans who eventually voted for the stimulus package (Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins) had hazarded small arms fire in order to sit in on the negotiations.

Shortly thereafter the president, who’d been sitting by and watching the Republican sideshow, went on the offensive.

It’s satisfying, for a change, watching a president seem so much at ease arriving at the middles of his sentences with so little difficulty getting to the ends of them. And coherently I might add.

Obama set off for parts of the country where many people aren’t as concerned about getting “tax cuts” as they are about keeping (or finding) jobs so they might be able to even pay taxes.

The positive responses to his overtures weren’t unpredictable. Even though Obama’s town hall meetings aren’t loaded with hand-picked Democrats with predigested questions to “aw-shucks” answers. By the time Obama gave his first ever televised news conference as president, it was clear the Republicans sensed they’d lost the battle win our “hearts and minds” in their first showdown with Obama. So, I’m offering my own amendments to the next stimulus plan. $1 billion for hankies, so Republicans can wipe away their tears. How about another billion for some seat belts?

It looks like they’re in for a mighty rough ride.

Edward A. Owens of Uniontown is Webmaster of “Red Raider Nation: Where Champions Live.” E-mail him at freedoms@bellatlantic.net