Chris Matthews Gets Something Halfway Right For A Change, Matt Vespa Objects

Anyone of any prominence threatening the nut-right’s caricature of President Obama as a far-left socialist kinda’ guy in an election year can certainly be expected to get kicked around a bit by Newsbusters. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said President Obama’s speech last night to the Democratic National Convention demonstrated that the Democrats “are not a left-wing party” but are, instead, a “center-left” one and that Obama is “something of a moderate, not a lefty here – certainly not a socialist…” For Matt Vespa, them’s fightin’ words but his attempted take-down of Matthews today, doesn’t have a lot of fight in it.

Chris Matthews must be living in an alternate reality. The stimulus, ObamaCare, the autoworkers union bailout, the green energy executive order, the watered-down Dream Act enacted by presidential fiat weren’t actions of limited government.

In this reality, it’s true that every Republican in the U.S. House and all but three Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted against the Obama stimulus package. It’s also true that immediately after the vote, most of those same conservative Republicans began demanding a piece of the pie go to their states and districts and, having voted “no,” returned home to take credit for all the money the stimulus was bringing in. Of 219 Republican members of congress at the time, 114 of them – over half the delegation – did this little dance. Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan was among them; in a story that received virtually no coverage in the corporate press that so regularly fawns over him, he lobbied the government for millions of dollars for a pair of companies in his home state.[1] Obama’s support for the stimulus only makes him some uber-leftist in a world in which conservative Republicans are as well.

Similarly, “Obamacare” was a Republican health care plan created in the 1990s as an alternative to the Clinton health plan (itself derived from a Republican original). Republicans had intermittently advocated it for 15 years before Obama adopted it as his own and one of the “mitts” in that “intermittently” was Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who, as governor of Massachusetts, implemented that very plan in his state. Obama chose it – a conservative plan aimed at propping up the failed insurance industry – in preference to the single-payer approach favored by the liberals. One of the only major progressive elements he included in his own was the “public option,” which, in a back-room deal he cut with industry lobbyists, he then agreed, at the beginning of the health care debate, to abandon.

Vespa’s “autoworkers union bailout” is what is known, in the real world, as the bailout of the auto industry. That wasn’t an invention of Barack “Kenyan socialist” Obama but of George Bush Jr., the most conservative Republican to ever occupy the U.S. presidency. It was before congress in Dec. 2008, before Obama had even become president, and, again, Republican vp candidate Ryan voted for it.

The original Dream Act was authored, way back in 2001 by left-wing nutjob Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)–in the real world, one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate. It has been introduced repeatedly over the last 11 years and the Bolshevist Bush administration incorporated major elements of it into its own comprehensive immigration reform package in 2007 (which failed).

Vespa complains about “$5 trillion added to the national debt” but $1.2 trillion of that was actually signed into law by Bush and as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has documented, policies initiated by Bush, rather than Obama, have been responsible for nearly all of the present and projected U.S. annual deficits. Obama certainly earns abuse for what has happened on his watch but his sin was in continuing to follow the policies of his conservative Republican predecessor, not in being, himself, any sort of big spender. Contrary to the Tax-And-Spend caricature Vespa seeks to invoke by raising this issue, around 70% of the present U.S. debt was incurred under Republican, rather than Democratic, administrations.

Vespa mentions elements of the poor economic performance of the Obama administration but none that touch on the Matthews assertions he’s trying to refute. No one disputes the Bush-era economic collapse has been hard on the U.S. The Bush administration itself was hard on it.

That’s pretty much Vespa’s case. If anything, it suggests that Matthews only erred by calling the Obama administration “center-left,” when “center-right” would be more accurate.

–j.

[1] Ryan did this in writing then lied about it on at least two separate occasions before finally having to fess up.

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