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Frank Rich is perhaps our best national opinion columnist.  His background in theater criticism gives him an unique and invaluable background for observing the goings-on in national politics.  In the foremost theater of drama queens, melodramatics and shameless publicists, Rich sees clearer than anyone else.

Tomorrow's Rich column blows away the smoke and covers the mirrors which were brought into fulsome service during the recent melodramatic production of The Bailout.  What he has to say is not news to most of us here, but is a clear-eyed antidote to the gales of hot air which have been loosed from the Beltway Gasbags on the subject. It is well worth reading in its entirety.

Just as in the presidential campaign, Obama has once again outwitted the punditocracy and the opposition. The same crowd that said he was a wimpy hope-monger who could never beat Hillary or get white votes was played for fools again.

Rich's column goes back to review how badly the Insiders have misread Barack Obama since his presidential campaign started, and persuasively argues that those Insiders haven't gotten any better at reading Obama since.  He interviews David Axelrod on this failure, who offers several excellent observations on the present circumstances.

"This town talks to itself and whips itself into a frenzy with its own theories that are completely at odds with what the rest of America is thinking," ...  For Axelrod, the moral is "not just that Washington is too insular but that the American people are a lot smarter than people in Washington think."

Rich notes how fatal to common sense living in the Beltway Bubble is.  Again, not news to us, but it may be to some number of his readers, hopefully including a few bubble-dwellers.  He notes the McCain campaign was done in, in no small part, by believing the spin of the Insiders.  The siren song of the promise of Joe the Plumber and his Reagan Democrat archetype led it to waste precious time in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, before sacrificing itself in its Alamo of Pennsylvania.

The Congressional Republicans are repeating McCain's mistake, believing their own propaganda as parroted by meatpuppets on CNN, Morning Joe and the Sunday morning wankfests.  Obama is again playing a longer game and refusing to be distracted by the blatherers, and as long as he does so will likely continue to enjoy much success at their expense.  As long as the extremists running the Republican party in Congress ignore the signs of moderate life in their party like the popular Charlie Crist, they guarantee further defeats.  As Rich concludes:

Republicans will also be judged by the voters. If they want to obstruct and filibuster while the economy is in free fall, the president should call their bluff and let them go at it. In the first four years after F.D.R. took over from Hoover, the already decimated ranks of Republicans in Congress fell from 36 to 16 in the Senate and from 117 to 88 in the House. The G.O.P. is so insistent that the New Deal was a mirage it may well have convinced itself that its own sorry record back then didn’t happen either.

UPDATE:  Please visit the wonderful series Filling Empty Bowls.  Keep this outstanding series on the Rec List, please, and give if you can.  This is our community at its best.

Originally posted to Dallasdoc on Sat Feb 14, 2009 at 07:39 PM PST.

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