A new version of David vs. Goliath

Vice President Joe Biden has said the administration did not realize how bad the economy was when it urged passage of a stimulus bill that’s failed in its mission. But what it missed is something else. The administration did not realize how deeply the economy would sink because of the holes it was drilling in its hull.

There’s first off all the spending both actual and plotted that’s no doubt giving the willies to businesses because of the investment competition of government borrowing and inflationary possibilities. There’s more, such as the threat of business taxes, the energy-reduction voodoo known as cap-and-trade and a health plan that probably won’t make us healthy, surely won’t make us wealthy and is far from being wise.

The administration, in short, is working overtime to turn a recession into a depression, but that’s hardly the end of it — it’s busily working to substitute the soft oppression of the welfare state for the relatively independent, self-reliant, happily liberated individualism that once differentiated us from semi-socialist Europe.

Various analysts have noted a great irony. We are moving toward a level of overall government spending as a percentage of gross domestic product as high or higher than in European nations that, having suffered from this self-inflicted fiscal trauma, are moving in the opposite direction. A variety of catastrophes are sitting there waiting to happen.

All of which means the Republicans must stop this thing, not by making a comeback in congressional elections next year or winning the presidency in 2012, but by understanding that President Barack Obama is moving fast for a reason. He knows that a president’s opportunity for dramatic action tends to comes early in his tenure and can be brief, and he probably grasps as well that rolling back government programs is much tougher than preventing their enactment.

It’s the moment that counts, and it’s up to the GOP to step forward, not because it has demonstrated great ability or devotion to principle, but because there’s no other entity positioned to act, even if the situation is David (the GOP) vs. Goliath (the Democrats).

The Democrats have significant numerical power in the House and Senate, and Obama is an incredibly bright, charismatic leader, someone who knows the importance of voice, especially when the opposition party has no single exemplary voice, but a great many mostly mediocre voices, none of them a match for the president.

Mark Sanford, sharp on fiscal matters, made an unfortunate trip to Argentina. While hardly the goofy know-nothing tacky leftists make her out to be, Sarah Palin falls short of what’s needed, at least as of now. The highly accomplished Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana came across on a nationally televised TV rebuttal to an Obama speech as out of his depth and almost silly. Newt Gingrich knows what he’s talking about, but people don’t much like him. John McCain is unconvincing on domestic issues.

There are some other GOP politicians who might catch on with the public, but have not so far, at least not in a major, difference-making way.

Maybe there’s no good answer here, but it seems to me some party leaders should read a Malcolm Gladwell piece in The New Yorker on how Davids have managed to best Goliaths over the years through diligent effort and outsmarting the opposition, thinking creatively, unconventionally. That could involve elevating a spokesman to prominence by means never tried before, or seeking out a spokesman (or spokeswoman) by reaching outside politics to someone with broad experience, erudition and great communicating skills.

At the very least, the party must rigorously, boldly adhere to principles it partially abandoned when last in power and seriously contemplate political innovations at a time when the polls show Obama’s job approval heading downwards, when the congressional Democrats seem in a state of confusion and when so much is immediately at stake.

(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)