NBC anchor Brian Williams signed off with a pom-pom line for Barack Obama and congressional Democrats at the end of his live coverage of the Obama press conference. “At least one other writer has written, as making this the most productive Congress since the Great Society era of the 1960s.”
It’s hard not to see in this a liberal definition of what “productivity” is. Reagan’s conservative legislative victories in his first two years, or George W. Bush starting two wars with congressional approval in his first two years are not defined as “productive.” Can the "stimulus" truly be defined as "productive"?
Which “writer” is Williams citing? Political scientist Norman Ornstein was selling this line – at the end of last January! – in The Washington Post:
[T]his Democratic Congress is on a path to become one of the most productive since the Great Society 89th Congress in 1965-66, and Obama already has the most legislative success of any modern president -- and that includes Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson. The deep dysfunction of our politics may have produced public disdain, but it has also delivered record accomplishment.
But he's not alone in seeing rainbows. Lisa Lerer and Laura Litvan of Bloomberg News just wrote:
However history judges the 535 men and women in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate the past two years, one thing is certain: The 111th Congress made more law affecting more Americans since the “Great Society” legislation of the 1960s.
Even so, a look at current NBC News reviews suggests strongly that it is indeed Ornstein who's influencing the Happy News from Williams. NBC's Mark Murray praised the "Do-Something Congress" on MSNBC's First Read blog, and Ornstein was cited:
But lost in the poll numbers and the voters' message in November is this one unmistakable fact: This Congress, which likely will come to a close this week, accomplished more, legislatively, than any other Congress since the 1960s (the Great Society) or the 1930s (the New Deal).
In the past two years, it has:
-- expanded the safety net with the health-care law;
-- invested billions in the nation's roadways, airports, schools, and green technologies with the stimulus;
-- reformed the nation's financial system with financial reform;
-- passed billions in tax cuts for Americans with the stimulus and the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts
-- expanded civil rights with the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
And in its final piece of business, the Senate is currently working on one of the White House's top foreign-policy goals: ratification of the New START treaty with Russia. Then throw in all of the other legislation enacted this Congress, like credit-card reform and the Lilly Ledbetter anti-pay-discrimination act.
"I would probably rank the New Deal [Congress] first," congressional scholar Norm Ornstein told First Read. "I think this one edges the Great Society. It is at least on par with the Great Society."
"For all the dysfunction, it was just astonishing what they were able to get done," Ornstein added.
What's "astonishing" is that liberals never consider the New Deal or the Great Society to be failures in any way, shape, or form. Creating government entitlements -- whether they're "productive" or a horrendous drain of tax dollars -- is an "achievement" if your goal is to build a European-style welfare state. Whether it "works" is apparently beside the point.