For a guy who was famous for playing cards with his colleagues in the Illinois legislature, Barack Obama isn't showing much of a poker face these days. The President and his top advisers have betrayed visible annoyance at the Republicans' failure to rally behind the White House's latest plans to goose the economy: proposed tax incentives for companies to make capital expenditures and do more R&D.
The Oval Office agitation is understandable. Obama is calling for some of the same provisions that the GOP and its business-lobby allies have touted for years and that are backed by a strong majority of policy experts. Republicans aren't suggesting Obama's ideas are bad. Sticking to House minority leader John Boehner's playbook, they are simply dodging any action that might improve the President's standing.
It is fair to ask (and many Democrats have) why the President is only now proposing such critical measures, rather than offering them up earlier in his term, before election-season politics brought governing to a standstill.
What most ails the economy right now is the uncertainty in the business sector about what Washington will do next. Wariness and doubt inhibit investment and hiring. The President's new proposals address those obstacles head-on. But sooner or later the President is going to need Republican votes and the backing of business to get this and other measures passed. Treating his opponents as unprincipled chuckleheads makes it less likely that Obama will get what he wants and more likely that voters will be turned off by contemptuous rhetoric.
That sort of gambit is likely to prove unhelpful for either the long-term good of the economy or the President.