The Political Battle Rages

The Obama administration is not pleased with the public’s lukewarm–at best–reception of its pork bill and other economic measures. Rick Santelli of CNBC has become something of a folk hero with this tirade against the administration’s unwise and unfair approach to the economy:

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Santelli obviously struck a nerve. Today Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, went after Santelli by name in a manner that could give demagoguery a bad name:

Gibbs took on CNBC’s Rick Santelli in unusually personal terms after being asked a question about Santelli’s bracing critique during a regular White House briefing.

“I’ve watched Mr. Santelli on cable the past 24 hours or so. I’m not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives but the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgages, stay in their jobs, pay their bills, send their kids to school,” Gibbs said. “I think we left a few months ago the adage that if it was good for a derivatives trader that it was good for Main Street. I think the verdict is in on that,” the press secretary said, poking directly at the cable journalist, who reports from the trading floor at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. …

Gibbs brandished a copy of a fact sheet about Obama’s plan. “Download it, hit print, and begin to read it,” he said. In all, Gibbs used Santelli’s name six times.

The administration also dispatched two high-level officials onto CNBC to rebut Santelli in more detail, Vice President Joe Biden’s economic adviser Jared Bernstein and Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan.

So the administration obviously fears that critiques like Santelli’s will resonate with the public.

Meanwhile, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal announced that his state will turn down some of the “stimulus” funds offered by the Democratic Congress:

In a statement, Jindal, who is slated to give the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s message to Congress on Tuesday, expressed concern that expanding unemployment insurance coverage would lead to increased unemployment insurance taxes later on.

“The federal money in this bill will run out in less than three years for this benefit and our businesses would then be stuck paying the bill,” Jindal said. “We must be careful and thoughtful as we examine all the strings attached to the funding in this package. We cannot grow government in an unsustainable way.”

Other Republican governors may follow suit. President Obama understands that most people consider the Democrats’ “stimulus” bill to be a porkfest. He tried to dampen skepticism today by vowing to crack down on waste in “stimulus” spending:

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday promised careful oversight of a $787 billion stimulus package he signed into law this week and said he would call to task any instances of government waste. …

He emphasized the plan would be implemented “without waste, inefficiency, or fraud” and promised to appoint a team of managers to oversee the spending.

“If a federal agency proposes a project that will waste that money, I will not hesitate to call them out on it, and put a stop to it,” Obama said. “I want everyone here to be on notice that if a local government does the same — I will call them out on it as well, and use the full power of my office and our administration to stop it,” he added.

Of course, no one was so rude as to ask Obama whether he considers tens of millions of dollars spent on behalf of the salt marsh harvest mouse, or billions for a railroad from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, to be “inefficiency” or “waste.”

This battle over the public’s perception of the Democrats’ pork-laden, anti-free enterprise economic program will continue for a considerable time, perhaps the next couple of years. Today’s events suggest that the administration doesn’t think the struggle is going particularly well.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has much, much more on the administration’s attack on Santelli.

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