There's finding a silver lining, making lemonade when life gives you lemons, and then there's just being spectacularly, insanely misguided. And that's where conservatives in the House of Representatives seem to have ended up over the past weeks as Congress has debated the economic recovery package.
President Obama made a full-court press for bipartisan support of the economic recovery package, spending hours with Republican leaders and the rank-and-file, having them over for cocktails, and even extending a much-coveted invite to watch the Super Bowl at the White House.
It seems, however, that this charm offensive and the substantive legislative concessions that followed were no match for some old-fashioned partisan grandstanding on the part of House Republican leaders. Indeed, it emerged that just a couple hours BEFORE President Obama made his much-discussed trip to the Capitol, Minority Leader John Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (who admits -- in public -- that he is modeling himself after Newt Gingrich) decreed that every single member of their caucus should vote against the economic recovery bill. And, as the media reminded us ad nauseum, both the House version and the final compromise passed the House without a single Republican vote.
(White House photos show House Republicans were eager for one thing -- Obama's autograph.)
This is where things really go off the rails. Just after the vote, Cantor posted a web video set to the tune of Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" that touted the united House GOP opposition to the "wasteful spending bill" that, according to the video, included "$1 billion for ACORN" (why let the truth be an obstacle when a bogeyman suits you better) and "$300 million for new [fuel-efficient, American-made] cars for government workers" (because lord knows the auto industry is doing just fine and why should we replace gas guzzlers with better cars to save taxpayers money and cut emissions anyway).
Who would have thought the best way to demonstrate your power as group is to remind people that even when every single member of your group remained united in opposition and shouted from the rooftops (with considerable help from the media) for days about it, you still had no real impact and were totally unable to stop it? A truly shining accomplishment if there ever was one.
(The video was taken down just days later after Aerosmith sent a cease-and-desist letter because Cantor hadn't actually bothered to secure the rights to use the song. You'd think Cantor would be more careful with the YouTubes, given other recent difficulties.)
While the media tried to make us -- especially those of us living here in the Beltway bubble -- believe that Obama was somehow mortally wounded by the recovery debate, the American public appears to have come to an altogether different conclusion. A Gallup poll taken just before the final vote pegged the public’s approval of Obama's handling of the recovery package at 67 percent. Congressional Democrats received the approval of 48 percent; meanwhile, a whopping 58 percent disapproved of how Congressional Republicans were handling themselves. Similarly, 68 percent say President Obama is doing either enough or even too much to cooperate with the minority in Congress, while 64 percent say the minority hasn't done enough to cooperate with him. The vast majority of Americans also give President Obama very high marks for his overall leadership and handling of the economy.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana, who Minority Leader John Boehner once touted as the "future" of the party, is now facing a recall from his constituents after voting against the recovery package twice -- after saying he'd vote for it. Oops.