In reporter Jackie Calmes' front-page story Tuesday, "Obama Gains G.O.P. Support From Governors," penned before Obama signed his massive spending plan into law, Calmes pointed to mockery by TV comics of the "militancy" of conservative Republicans in Congressopposingthe spending plan,which the Times insists on calling "an economic recovery plan." "Militancy" is a word the paperhas previously usedto describe the terrorist group Hamas.
President Obama must wish governors could vote in Congress: While just three of the 219 Republican lawmakers backed the $787 billion economic recovery plan that he is signing into law on Tuesday, that trifling total would have been several times greater if support among the 22 Republican state executives counted.
The contrast reflects the two faces of the Republican Party these days.
Leaderless after losing the White House, the party is mostly defined by its Congressional wing, which flaunted its anti-spending ideology in opposing the stimulus package. That militancy drew the mockery of late-night television comics, but the praise of conservative talk-show stars and the party faithful.
In the states, meanwhile, many Republican governors are practicing a pragmatic - their Congressional counterparts would say less-principled - conservatism.
Known for more than a century as the nation's party of business, rooted in the industrial North and its affluent communities, the Republican Party has evolved over the last generation as its base moved to the South after the civil-rights era into a party that is defined more by social conservatism than business issues. On the economy, it is increasingly populist. And populists do not favor bailouts of Wall Street.
That rigidly ideological stance at a time of economic crisis reflects the Republican Party now dominant in the House as well as in many state legislatures.
Returning to Calmes' front-page story on Tuesday:
Mr. Obama's two-year stimulus package includes more than $135 billion for states, to help them pay for education, Medicaid and infrastructure projects. Yet even that sum would cover less than half of the total budget deficits the states will face through 2010, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal research and advocacy organization.
The states' reliance on the federal government in times of distress will be showcased this weekend, when the governors come to Washington for their annual winter meeting. Their focus will be on infrastructure needs and home foreclosures.
The disconnect between Republican members of Congress and governors recalls the mid-1990s, when Republicans took control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years. After an initial public show of being partners in a "Republican revolution," the partnership all but dissolved when governors strongly objected as the more dogmatic conservatives in Congress tried to cut domestic programs and then shut down the federal government in an unsuccessful showdown with President Bill Clinton.
A nytimes.com search indicates the Times has never used the phrase "dogmatic liberals" in a news story.