My friend Ben Pershing at the Washington Post has a great piece about Monday's stunning failure of the bailout bill. He outlines five reasons why the House of Representatives rejected the legislation.
At the top of the list is "poor salesmanship" on the part of the administration.
From the Post:
1) Poor Salesmanship. Did you know that the general consensus is now that this bill will not cost $700 billion? If you didn't, it's because the bill's proponents did a poor marketing job. From the start, the Bush administration did not do enough to emphasize the point that taxpayers would get at least some of the money back, and that gigantic price tag got stuck in the head of the public (and the media).
The administration was also too eager and ambitious with its initial proposal, alienating many lawmakers right from the start by seeming to ask for the moon—give us everything we want, with no oversight. This White House has long played political hardball, but this was not the time for hardball. This was the time for begging. The administration also let the "bailout" label stick to the package right from the start. By the time President Bush started calling it a "rescue" measure, it was too late.
Pershing cites election-year political math as another factor that dragged the bill down.
2) Vulnerables Scared. If you have a difficult reelection race, what was your motivation to vote for this bill? "I voted in favor of a bill that I didn't really like, because I had no choice," doesn't make for a particularly snappy campaign slogan. "I stood up to my party and Wall Street," sounds much better. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) both made the argument that lawmakers needed to rise to the occasion and not think of their own political futures. But members of Congress ALWAYS think of their political futures. It's much easier to talk of sacrifice for the greater good when you're going to get reelected with 70 percent of the vote, like nearly every leader on both sides of the aisle will.
The full article is well worth the read.