Show them the money!

Surely we can all assume that no self-respecting Republicans will dare take a dime of Barack Obama’s welfare socialist stimulus money. They have their small-government convictions, after all, and surely that requires that they leave billions on the table, firm in their belief that conservative ideology is far more important than the fiscal and social welfare of their constituents. Surely they wish to remain consistent, and faithful to the credo. That would indeed be the principled thing to do. End of story, right?

But hang on a moment. What do we have here…

Lindsey Graham, one of the top Senate fulminators against the stimulus, now says: “I think it would be smart for South Carolina to take the money.” Sarah Palin, who has generally echoed the anti-stimulus conservative line, says that she’s ready to take stimulus money “on a case by case basis,” especially for construction projects. Bobby Jindal, the Louisana governor, leaves the window ajar by saying, “We’ll have to review each new program,” and Missississippi Gov. Haley Barbour does the same, saying that “there may be some things that we’d be better off not to take.”

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, vocal stimulus foe, has just informed Obama, in a letter, that he "will accept the funds." Back east, the Republican regime in Georgia reportedly sent a wish list to Washington a month ago. Out west, California Republican congressman, who voted No, says, “We’re obligated to make sure this money is spent properly.” In the heartland, a Missouri Republican congressman,  who voted No, says, “There is some Pell Grant money (for students), which is a good thing.” And back in South Carolina, GOP governor Mark Sanford, another outspoken stimulus foe, now says that his stance "doesn't preclude taking the money."


Surely they all wish to do better than that. Let’s grow a spine, people. For instance, Bobby Jindal is facing a potential $2 billion budget shortfall next year, and, granted, his cut of the stimulus package - for infrastructure spending alone – is worth $538 million, but surely he wouldn’t think of taking any of that money and compromising his party’s principles. He might even want to run for president in 2012, and standing on principle is very important to the national conservative base. So no doubt he will refuse every last cent of that liberal lucre. Right?

As for Sanford, the conservative governor of South Carolina, this is truly the time to stand on principle – what with unemployment soaring at home (9.5 percent), and Graham urging him to take the money that’s right there on the table (“you don’t want to be crazy here,” says Graham). South Carolina has actually been dependent on Washington for a long time – reportedly, the state gets $1.35 back for every buck it pays in federal taxes – but what better time than now for Sanford to be ideologically consistent and say no to the money that would extend jobless insurance, build and repair roads, and prevent teacher layoffs. We know he’ll stand firm all the way. Right?

As for Palin, OK, granted she’s facing a projected $1.5-billion budget shortfall, and granted her cut of the Obama stimulus package would reportedly total more than half a billion dollars, which after all would be a big help to her hurting constituents….but surely we have every confidence that she will refuse it all and thus remain a principled conservative to the bitter end. Right?

Indeed, we can surely expect that all Republicans will hew to their convictions and spurn the money. So what if the latest Fox News poll, released today, finds that 60 percent of Americans (including 62 percent of swing-voting independents) approve of the job that Obama is doing, while only 34 percent (including just 29 percent of independents) approve of the job that the congressional Republicans are doing? Principled people don't peg their convictions to the public mood. 

And we can surely expect that, any second now, party chairman Michael Steele and the party leaders on Capitol Hill will finally issue that stinging press release, the one that slaps down all these wavering conservatives who seem so tempted by such ill-gotten gains. And it will be such a simple message, a paean to ideological consistency: “We said no to the bill, and now we say no to the money.”

Funny how that’s not happening.