The GOP thinks you're stupid
Well, that's not any big surprise, of course; they've always operated on the assumption that the electorate is bone-ignorant, and they've gotten pretty far with it. But their game-playing over the issue of the 'bailout' bill has gotten insulting.
Last night I was watching one of those 'balanced' panels in which each side fielded a representative to try to convince us that the other side was playing politics with the current credit-markets crisis. And the GOPer said to the Dem that if it was all that important, the Dems could have passed the bill without the GOP at all - that 95 Dems also voted against the bill.
This presupposed that the listener (ie me) is completely unaware of how bills make it to the floor. I think most people (or at least people who follow politics at all, or at a minimum watched The West Wing) know how this goes, but for those of you who are actually as ignorant as the GOP thinks everyone is, a refresher:
Bills are never brought up for a vote unless the leadership has reason to think it will pass. If you ever wondered why a bill 'never makes it out of committee', this is usually why. And when a bill is universally unpopular with the electorate yet both parties support it, there are extensive negotiations over how many votes each party has to bring to bear to pass it. Because neither side wants to appear to be the sole owner of the bill, which would allow the other side to demagogue it in the election. The negotiations are pretty nuanced - one side might argue, for instance, that their base is more charged up against the bill and they should therefore only have to bring, say, a third of the yes votes to the winning total. The other side would have to consider whether that total would be enough to innoculate them against charges that It's All Their Fault.
Once the party leaderships have agreed on how many votes they can commit, they go back to their caucuses and start figuring out who can be allowed to vote against the unpopular bill (reps in shaky districts, typically) and those who have to take one for the team and vote for it. This is why there are 'party whips' - the title isn't honorary; they have a pretty significant job to do enforcing party discipline. (And to suggest that party discipline isn't necessary and that everyone should be allowed to vote 'their conscience' is naive - political parties are the ONLY way legislature ever makes it out of Congress alive.)
So it was kind of stunning that the 'bailout' bill failed on the floor. The GOP leadership immediately rushed to the microphones to blame Speaker Pelosi for being 'hyperpartisan' (something of a hoot, considering the extent to which they have demagogued the issue), and even a lot of 'reasonable' pundits laid part of the blame on her.
So we're led to believe that something that the leaders of both parties agree needs to be done for the good of the country (irrespective of the merits of the bill itself) failed because a few people got hurt feelings? I figured there were three options:
1.) the GOP negotiated in bad faith and never intended to let their membership help the bill pass in 'ownership significant' numbers. I honestly didn't believe this; they're in the minority now, and next year are going to be even more in the minority. Shanking the majority on an important vote would mean they would have two years of literally nothing to do to advance their own priorities.
2.) the GOP thought they had the votes they needed (or could get them) but were surprised to be mistaken, which would mean that the leadership is as weak as Bush proves to be, or
3.) The GOP literally had the votes in hand and five-six members defected over the aforementioned hurt feelings.
I also thought we'd never know which of those three possibilities were closest to the truth. But I reasoned without taking into consideration the GOP's propensity for high-stakes gambling, because we can now say with 100% certainty that Option One is the winner - the GOP never intended to vote for the bill. How can I be so certain?
Because on Monday morning, before the vote took place, the GOP had already sent out ads running against the Dems for voting for it. The wording of the ads, airing now, presumes that the Dems, being the Good Guys that they are, made up for the GOP defections and passed the bill.
Got that? While they're in negotiations on how to pass a bill, and appearing before cameras to say how important it is that this bill passes, they are already planning to pull enough votes so that the Dems take full ownership of an unpopular if necessary measure.
I don't know why I'm surprised. The party that could exploit 9/11 for political gain basically since 9/12/01 would do literally anything to maintain their own personal power.
Note: this is to say nothing of the actual content of the bill or the policies it would enact, and speaks only to the truly vile politics on display. Country first? Sh'yeah.