Top Reason (as Letterman might put it) for Loving the Establishment Media: their alacrity in back-patting-a-president-they-hated-to-be-so-hard-on. Barack Obama's new-found statesmanship during the pre-Christmas lame-duck session bids fair -- if you take the commentators at their word -- to give him his second presidential wind.
Why, the lame ducks of Capitol Hill passed the president's compromise (except, of course, compromise always takes more than one party) on taxes (which measure the liberals had hated when it was announced); repealed the Clinton era "don't ask, don't tell" policy on military service by homosexuals and lesbians; ratified (with vital Republican help) a nuclear arms treaty with Russia; extended unemployment benefits; and thus allowed Obama a Christmas victory lap. Well, I mean, so as you'd suppose just from the thump-thump of the media beat.
Our "transformational" president would be well-advised to bask in such acclaim as falls presently on his ears, because he is unlikely to get much of that commodity once the new Congress convenes. The lame ducks of Capitol Hill, waddling into the political twilight, did all they could to accommodate the swan in the White House. Things are about to become a little bit different. And high time.
Overwhelming liberal Democratic control of the House was the key to anything and everything Obama wanted in the last session. House Republicans were relatively few, and they often found themselves penned in a tight corner of the stockyard by the crack of Nancy Pelosi's bullwhip. They couldn't do much besides state their case and hope for the best. All the bad stuff -- starting with Obamacare -- originated in the House, and then went to the Senate for such minor modifications as the Republicans there could work.
Unfortunately for the speaker, the voters snatched away her bullwhip and dismissed the posse that rode behind her. The House is Republican territory. Nothing the House won't put up with will pass. Nothing.
That means all the creative ideas will emerge this year from a House: sick of life on the Pelosi plantation and determined to enact, not the President's ideas as they are, but their own ideas: hand-tooled and crafted by the GOP's sharpest thinkers. These include, just to name a few: Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Eric Cantor of Virginia and Jeb Hensarling of Texas. Each one understands basic economics better than -- to judge by results over the past 18 months or so -- the combined Democratic majority of the old Congress.
That's to say, Ryan and the rest know you don't get an economy off its back by letting anyone's tax cuts expire, the way Obama and the Pelosi Democrats hoped to end past reductions for $250,000-plus earners. Ryan and the rest know new jobs don't flow from "stimulus" bills that redirect spending from the private marketplace to outlets favored by powerful political constituencies. They know earmarks hardly precipitated the current crisis in federal spending, but they also know that congressmen qualify for little public trust with spending priorities better suited to re-election plans than to any larger good.
The new Republican House -- oh, how one prays to be right about this! -- knows one thing the Pelosi minions never gleaned. To wit, things can't go on the way they've been going. The old House's leadership believed money grew on trees. It doesn't. It grows from guts and gray matter -- from courage and imagination. Tight and narrow regulations, government mandates, and tax policies based on the notion that government knows who deserves to have what sum of money and who doesn't -- stuff of that sort kills jobs, instead of creating new ones.
White House cooperation with the new House vision of economic restoration would be welcome. To tell the truth, it would be glorious. Provided -- here's the hitch -- the House drives the car, while the President sips the Slurpee. The overdue acknowledgement that needs to come from Barack Obama is that while elections have consequences, as in 2008, new elections have new consequences. Like the ones we hope -- finally, at last -- are on the way.