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Gary Horton: Obama gets the GOP where it hurts

Posted: April 20, 2010 4:17 p.m.
Updated: April 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
Our weekly narrative shifts back to the Granary Square Starbucks where now famous mayor of Starbucks, Sam Danny continues holding court over the "coffee klatch" crowd of retirees, wannabe retirees and middle-aged working stiffs.

I'm the middle-aged stiff, sitting across from one of our town's most prominent and visible Republicans. The newspapers strewn across our table scream headlines of the Dow Jones reaching 11,000 - a headline too enticing for this smart aleck to ignore. So I slowly lean over to my Republican friend (who remains nameless, preserving his reputation) and quip: "Now that the Obama administration has been in a year and their programs have traction, how's your 401k doing?"

The prominent Republican leans back and laughs: "Gary, you got me where it really hurts." Sam Danny sees a soft spot and piles on: "Yeah, he got you right in the truth."

Who can forget the gut-wrenching stock market plunge during Bush's last year? The Dow fell, fell and fell again. By the time Obama finally assisted that lamest of ducks from his presidential prison, the Dow had dropped from 14,164 to 8,600. Then in March, as the banking crisis nuked the country, the Dow dove again to 6,547, hitting what would be the very nadir of the market's decline.

Republicans had glee in their hearts for the chance to wag at Obama's two-month presidency and nag, "See what that socialist did!"
Clearly, Obama had hardly warmed his presidential chair or gotten his new business cards when the opposition attempted affixing blame.

I recall seeing a goofy caricature of Obama standing in front of a crashing stock chart. "Did I do that?" asked a befuddled-looking Obama. Dreams were coming true for exiled Republican hacks, as the reeling economy became a grand game of pin-that-tale on the donkey. As if 60 days in office, and one can save an economy two years in a free fall.

But Americans seem condemned to short memories, and that tale started to stick on the Democratic donkey's behind.

But a funny thing happened on that grand Republican plan. The bank bailouts worked. The Recovery Act took hold. Extended jobless benefits saved millions from worse misery. And the stock market took off on a once-in-a-lifetime screaming tear - topping more than 11,000 last week as the recovery proved increasingly robust. Just yesterday, Bloomberg reported new economic expectations of a sharp V-shaped recovery, with 4-5 percent GDP growth in 2010. Hold on to your seats folks, we're gaining altitude fast.

Fortunes have been made, and savings already restored this past year - and many are breathing substantially easier. That good news is a twisted, sad fact for Republican strategists. People vote with their wallets, and the better Americans fair in this recovery, the worse Republicans suffer in the next election. This rising economic tide won't raise all ships; it will sink Republican vessels. The GOP finds itself in a strange place, rooting against the very recovery we all want so dearly.

"You got me where it hurts, Gary." My Republican friend continued on, adding that his "age-targeted" retirement plan was two years ahead. His accounts have grown so quickly this past year he now wonders how to handle the excess.

Well, we all know presidents don't directly control economic levers, but this go-around, Obama inherited a crashing jetliner of an economy and was forced to manhandle whatever controls he could grab.

You have got to give credit where credit is due, and even my coffee-shop friend admits there was pretty sound financial steering up in the presidential cockpit this past year. Maybe not quite Capt. Sully landing on the Hudson, but Obama did as much as any president could have and pulled us out of tailspin that looked absolutely fatal to those most in the know.

Esteemed Wharton economics professor Jeremy Seigel told our class deadpan seriously, that without Ben Bernanke's and Obama's programs we'd be in a barter economy today - trading firewood for oranges and selling our car parts for food. But that didn't happen, and the second Great Depression never was because a bunch of smart guys acted fast - smartly. And my Republican friend understands this, too.

The economy will only be stronger by year's end, and employment will also see relief. With their bad economy gunpowder rained on and soaking wet, Republican leadership will worm wedge issues for whatever votes to be tricked or turned.

We'll hear moans of "socialized health care" until our ears fall off our heads. And with another Supreme Court nomination on the dock, we'll be tormented with litmus tests and blah blah blah until we're moaning, too.

But I woke up this morning thinking about the last guy's Supreme Court nominations. The first thought that came to mind? Harriet Miers.

Can you even believe anyone would vilify Obama's nominations after the Harriet Miers affair? Bush's personal attorney who'd never tried a case, nominated for life to the highest court of the land?

That one's got to hurt, too.

Gary Horton lives in Valencia. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Full Speed to Port!" appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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