Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat who represents Manhattan's West Side and parts of Brooklyn, was a panelist along with me this morning at a post-election breakfast in New York sponsored by Government Affairs Professionals and Winning Strategies Washington.
Mr. Nadler delivered what struck me as a surprisingly harsh assessment of President Obama, saying a reasonable jury would probably find him "guilty of political malpractice in the first degree," both for allowing himself to be negotiated into a stimulus that was "far too small" and too tilted toward unstimulative tax cuts, and also for his "extended use of Hooverite rhetoric to assure people that the economy is improving when it obviously isn't improving."
Mr. Nadler said that if unemployment stays high — as he predicted it will, given that the additional stimulus he said was needed to reduce it is now "politically impossible" — the consequence will be a Republican Senate and a Republican president in 2012, to be followed by a Democratic takeover of Congress in 2014.
Mr. Nadler said that given that "the gambling casino on Wall Street wrecked the economy," the financial regulation bill passed by Congress was "exceedingly mild" and probably not adequate to prevent the next crisis.
As for the agenda looking forward, Mr, Nadler declared that "cap and trade is dead, obviously." He said that while Republicans were unlikely fully to repeal ObamaCare, they might "sabotage it by refusing to fund" it — and he said that was in their power to do, even if they controlled just the House. He also said Republicans might try to "destroy the enforcement budgets" of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
I was put in the unusual position of defending Mr. Obama against a Democratic politician. I said that since both President George W. Bush and President Clinton had lost control of both the House and the Senate during their presidencies, Mr. Obama hadn't done all that badly in managing to hold on to the Senate. I even allowed as how the economy is recovering some, though not as much as most people would like. I pointed out that we have had positive GDP growth, unless you think the government is fudging the statistics. And I pointed out that the National Bureau of Economic Research, not a bunch of Obama stooges, has declared the recession over. I also pointed out that Twitter, which hardly anyone had heard of two years ago, now has a valuation greater than the market capitalization of New York Times, and that Facebook was the topic of one of the big movies of the season. American entrepreneurs and technological innovation are an incredible resilient engine of growth, I said; they don't need a government or regulatory environment that is perfect, they just need one that is not totally horrible.
Mr. Nadler and I both said there was a likelihood of an extension of at least some of the Bush tax cuts, though Mr. Nadler also said there is a chance of "brinksmanship" in which the disagreement over extending the tax cuts for those earning above $250,000 a year (a threshold he said he would like to see increased) held up the extension of the tax cuts for everyone else.