Republicans appear to have learned at least one thing from the finance crisis–and it is that bailouts are very unpopular. You know the kind of bailouts of big private financial companies pushed for by the Republican president George W. Bush? Now Republicans are trying to make Democrats unpopular by tarring any Democratic bill dealing with new financial regulations as a “permanent bailout fund” bill. It really does not matter to Republicans that even people like Mark Halperin are calling their claims complete nonsense.
What was meant to be a hearing on the collapse of Lehman Brothers, not surprisingly, turned into a stage for political grandstanding. But I did learn one important thing from the hearing: Republicans are committed to playing the “permanent bailout” game. Basically, Republicans on the committee tried to as often as possible call any Democratic bill a permanent bailout, a bailout fund, or some form of the general theme. It seems they are trying the prove the old adage that “a lie told often enough becomes true.”
I expect most of the congressional Republicans to continue to pay the bailout game in the coming days, weeks, and possibly months while Congress tries to pass some form of financial regulation. The general idea of new regulations meant to clip Wall Street’s wings is generally very popular, but Republicans are working hard to change that by tying any reform, regardless what it is, in the byzantine logic that somehow it is a permanent bailout.
The fight is shaping up to be just like health care, just replace the phrase “government take over of health care” with “permanent bailout.” The sad thing is that the political strategy just might work unless Democrats and the media start forcefully calling Republicans liars.