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Monday, September 29, 2008

Does nobody know how to count anymore?`

One sign America's math skills are poor is the failure of the House leadership to count votes, leading to today's stunning 228-205 defeat of the bailout plan.

In all, 65 Republicans joined 140 Democrats in voting "yes," while 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats voted "no."

So who's to blame for this? Bush? Paulson? McCain or Obama? Well, some Republicans were blaming ... Nancy Pelosi.

Republicans blamed Pelosi's scathing speech near the close of the debate — which assailed Bush's economic policies and a "right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation" of financial markets — for the defeat. It was not much different from her usual tough words against the president and his party.

"We could have gotten there today had it not been for the partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House," Boehner said.

Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the whip, estimated that Pelosi's speech changed the minds of a dozen Republicans who might otherwise have supported the plan.

What is this? Third grade? "Teacher, Nancy made fun of me." Barney Frank said as much.

That amounted to an appalling accusation by Republicans against Republicans, said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the Financial Services Committee: "Because somebody hurt their feelings, they decide to punish the country."

More than a repudiation of Democrats, Frank said, Republicans' refusal to vote for the bailout was a rejection of their own president.

I'm not going to cry about the defeat, because I think this bailout bill is at best a poorly designed giveaway. But I have to wonder about a political leadership that can't count.

I'd like to think this will lead to a more reasoned consideration of what we need to do to stabilize the system while protecting taxpayers somewhat. But the most likely scenario is that they will make enough cosmetic changes to get a few more votes.

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