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Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010

Kiss of Death

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Kiss of Death is a classic film noir from 1947 in which Richard Widmark plays a psychopathic killer who laughs maniacally as he pushes an elderly woman in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs.

During these mean-spirited political times, Republicans have no qualms about calling up such images about President Barack Obama.

“That’s what Obama’s visits and support really have been—the kiss of death,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, about Obama’s Milwaukee campaign fund-raising appearance.

Of course, if that were the case, why were Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, running for governor, and Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, running for re-election, so eager to share the spotlight with the incumbent president?

Perhaps because this is the president who won an overwhelming election victory in Wisconsin, achieving victory in 59 of the state’s 72 counties—rural, suburban and urban counties.

Not only that, but Obama was arriving at a perfect time to tout $365 million for Wisconsin to rehire laid-off teachers and maintain health care he finally managed to get through Congress over the opposition of Republicans.

That was in addition to the recent windfall of $810 million in economic stimulus funds to make Wisconsin the centerpiece of a national high-speed rail system connecting Milwaukee and Madison to St. Louis, Chicago, Minneapolis and other major cities.

GOP Brainwashing

Still, you can’t blame Priebus and state Republicans for deluding themselves into thinking there’s something negative about a personally popular president showing up bearing more than a billion dollars during hard times to campaign for state Democrats.

Republicans and the media have been brainwashing each other.

The media narrative for weeks has been that Obama and the Democrats are in trouble in the November election because jobs are still not being created fast enough as the nation struggles to recover from one of the worst economic disasters in American history.

That’s a pretty bad story for the Democrats, all right. But sometime before November, the media is going to have to get around to telling the rest of the story.

It is that Republicans have consistently voted against every effort to improve the economy under Obama because Republicans would prefer to have millions of Americans remain out of work rather than have Democrats benefit politically from an economic recovery.

To needlessly compound the injury, Republicans also voted against extending unemployment compensation for millions of people without jobs at a time when there are five applicants for every opening.

That’s why when you look closely at most of the polls that say people are unhappy with Obama and the Democrats because of the economy, you find that the only politicians people hold in lower esteem than the Democrats are the Republicans.

But that’s not the part of the story that makes the headlines. The headlines keep repeating the same tired line—More Bad News for Democrats: People Unhappy about Economy.

The conventional wisdom in political reporting is that the party that wins the presidential election always loses seats in Congress in the off-year election two years later.

And when people are unhappy about the economy, the party in power loses even more seats.

Of course, conventional wisdom also said Obama would never be elected president in the first place. The economic circumstances surrounding November’s election have never existed before. Naturally, voters are distressed about the economy. Who wouldn’t be? But here is the choice for voters to register their unhappiness in November:

They can vote for the Democrats who have passed bill after bill to save millions of jobs and to create new jobs rebuilding roads, bridges and infrastructure and—on the depressed North Side of Milwaukee—building high-tech, high-speed trains for a new national transportation system.

Or, if voters are really angry that all those hard-fought Democratic efforts to pull the economy back from the brink of a depression are not creating jobs fast enough, their other choice is to vote to shut down the economic recovery.

That’s because Republicans have opposed every single bill to save or create American jobs.

Republicans would have let the American car companies go out of business, devastating local manufacturers such as Johnson Controls. They would have let the banks collapse. They would have laid off hundreds of thousands of teachers. They even oppose a $30 billion loan fund to assist small businesses.

Wisconsin Republicans have joined their national leaders in opposing actual dollars coming into the state to create jobs and promote economic development.

Incredibly, both Republican gubernatorial candidates have pledged to reject the federal gift of $810 million to build the national high-speed rail system in Wisconsin and all the resulting employment and economic development.

When the economy is the primary voter concern, the cynical Republican decision to try to prevent economic recovery under Obama should be the real political kiss of death.

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