Monday, September 29, 2008

Newt Whines, "It's All Pelosi's Fault!"

At a press conference held mere moments after Monday's defeat of the $250 billion bailout proposal, several top Republicans nominated a scapegoat for the bill's failure: Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Even as Chris Matthews was at pains to note on MSNBC the fact that, while the Democrats had delivered more than half of their caucus in favor of the bailout plan and Republicans could not, several top GOP figures (who fractured over the actual vote) went full-tilt in blaming Pelosi personally.

House Republican Leader John Boehner said, "I do believe that we could have gotten there today, had it not been for this partisan speech that the Speaker gave on the floor of the House. I mean, we were -- we put everything we had into getting the votes to get there today, but the Speaker had to give a partisan voice that poisoned our conference, caused a number of members who we thought we could get to go south."

Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor followed Boehner, and brandished his own copy of Pelosi's speech when seconding his leader's analysis. "Right here is the reason I believe why this vote failed," Cantor said, "and this is Speaker Pelosi's speech that frankly struck the tone of partisanship that frankly was inappropriate in this discussion."

John McCain (perhaps seeking to avoid his own share of the blame) joined in. Economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said:

"From the minute John McCain suspended his campaign and arrived in Washington to address this crisis, he was attacked by the Democratic leadership: Senators Obama and Reid, Speaker Pelosi and others. Their partisan attacks were an effort to gain political advantage during a national economic crisis. By doing so, they put at risk the homes, livelihoods and savings of millions of American families.

"Barack Obama failed to lead, phoned it in, attacked John McCain, and refused to even say if he supported the final bill.

"Just before the vote, when the outcome was still in doubt, Speaker Pelosi gave a strongly worded partisan speech and poisoned the outcome.

"This bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country.

Story continues below

So what, exactly, in Pelosi's speech proved so searingly partisan that it sent Republicans running away from the bailout bill? You can read her entire remarks as prepared for delivery below, but there are only a couple of clauses that seem remotely partisan. At one point, Pelosi claimed, fairly, that "Democrats insisted that legislation responding to this crisis must protect the American people and Main Street from the meltdown on Wall Street."

She also included some criticism of the current White House: "It is a number that is staggering, but tells us only the costs of the Bush Administration's failed economic policies -- policies built on budgetary recklessness, on an anything goes mentality, with no regulation, no supervision, and no discipline in the system."

But the only mention of "Republican" in her prepared remarks came in this line: "Over the past several days, we have worked with our Republican colleagues to fashion an alternative to the original plan of the Bush Administration."

Responding to the Republicans' claims of inappropriate partisanship, Rep. Barney Frank delivered a memorable response, accusing GOPers of "hurting the country" because someone "hurt their feelings." Frank even offered in the press conference to salve the Republicans' wounds, getting a big laugh:

"We have come together on a bill to alleviate the crisis, and because somebody hurt their feelings, they decide to punish the country? I mean, I would not have imputed that degree of pettiness and hypersensitivity. ... There were 12 Republican members who were ready to stand up for the economic interests of America, but not if anybody insulted them. I'll make an offer. Give me those 12 people's names and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them and tell them what wonderful people they are and maybe they'll now think about the country."

Here's video of the Republican leadership followed by Frank:

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