If only Snowe’s actions met her misplaced rhetoric

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner talked to the Senate Small Business Committee, urging its members to approve jobs measures proposed by the White House. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), ostensibly Congress’ most moderate Republican and the member most likely to listen to reason, went on quite a tirade.

“Your primary mission is to craft the economic policy of this country, and at this point, it simply isn’t working,” she told Geithner. “Something’s gone terribly wrong, and what I hear over and over again is that there is no tempo, a tempo of urgency.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking to…but you need to talk to the average person,” she said later in a testy back and forth with Geithner. “Rome is burning.”

I’m delighted Snowe is pretending to care about the economy. I’m also delighted she thinks she’s in touch with what “average” people want, and would like to see policymakers to act with “urgency.”

But if Olympia Snowe thinks her actions are consistent with her rhetoric, she’s sadly mistaken.

We are, after all, talking about the alleged moderate from Maine who, just last week, voted with right-wing senators to refuse a debate on the popular and effective American Jobs Act. She’s the same senator who’s refused to endorse any of the provisions in the bill, no matter how much they’d help. What was that she was saying about “urgency”?

Snowe thinks Geithner is responsible for crafting the nation’s economic policy? Here’s a radical idea: maybe if Snowe could bring herself to stop filibustering worthwhile economic legislation, Geithner might have more success.

“Rome is burning”? And who, exactly, does Snowe believe is responsible? The party with good economic ideas that can’t overcome Republican obstructionism, or the party engaged in the obstructionist tactics, offering ideas that would make the economy worse, and by some accounts, holding back the nation deliberately?

Snowe seems to believe the status quo isn’t working. On this, she’s correct. But it’s not working because Republicans are getting their way.

In what universe does it make sense for Snowe to blame Geithner? Snowe and Republicans got the tax cuts they demanded; Snowe and Republicans saw the stimulus spending evaporate, just as they wanted; Snowe and Republicans are watching the public sector lay off hundreds of thousands of workers, just as GOP policy dictates; and Snowe and Republicans have forced the White House to accept massive spending cuts, which takes money out of the economy on purpose.

And now she’s complaining? Why, because her party is getting what it wants and she doesn’t like the results?

Arguably one of the most dramatic Democratic dilemmas of 2011 and 2012 is overcoming the realization that Republicans are getting their way on economic policy and then denying any responsibility for the results. Indeed, it’s a rather extraordinary con: GOP officials see much of their agenda implemented, then see it fail, and then blame Obama when their policies don’t work.

The nation is reading from the Republicans’ economic playbook, and thanks in part to Snowe’s filibusters, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. When the GOP agenda fails, Republicans should be prepared to accept responsibility for the consequences, instead of pretending they’re not getting their way.