"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste," sayeth Rahm.
Opportunistic and cynical, yes. But also savvy political counsel that transformational presidents have always followed.
FDR exploited the Depression to launch his New Deal, bring an end to a Republican hegemony of seven decades and make Democrats the majority party, until Richard Nixon picked the lock.
While the debate is endless over whether the New Deal ended the Depression or caused it to endure until World War II spending pulled us out of the ditch, few deny that FDR left a monumental legacy.
We see it in the great dams of the West and TVA in the South, in the REA that first brought electricity to America's farms, in deposit insurance, unemployment benefits and Social Security.
Lyndon Johnson seized on the trauma of JFK's assassination and racial incidents such as Selma Bridge to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Ronald Reagan seized on the humiliation of the Iranian hostage crisis, Moscow's invasion of Afghanistan and the worst recession since the 1930s to rebuild the military, create a 600-ship Navy, push the Soviet Empire out of Central America and Afghanistan, and cut taxes from 70 percent to 28 percent, creating 20 million jobs in a seven-year boom that inspired the awe, envy and emulation of much of the world.
Not for nothing are the '80s remembered as the Reagan Decade.
Obama himself has spoken of FDR and Reagan as the kind of "transformational" presidents he wishes to become.
Which brings us to that "stimulus package," the price of which is $819 billion and rising, 6 percent of gross domestic product, piled on a deficit already projected at $1.2 trillion. As it was being whistled through the House, not one Republican voted aye. A dozen Democrats could not stomach it, either.
Does President Obama really want this Nancy Pelosi New Deal to be his legacy? Because that is exactly what he is inviting. And before he uses force majeure to ram this bill through the Senate, he ought to consider what the honest objections are.
When Sen. John Kyl, at a White House meeting with Obama, said that giving income tax rebates to millions of folks who pay no income taxes seems to be simply welfare, Obama tersely replied, "I won."
Indisputably. But does it make sense to include in a plan to prepare America for the 21st century borrowing billions from Beijing to mail out in $500 checks to folks who don't pay income taxes, so they can run down to Wal-Mart and buy more goods made in China?