“It’s time to play hardball,” advises the WaPo’s E.J. Dionne today, echoing the sentiments of many, including myself, who think Obama needs to fight back against Republican anti-stimulus spin. Dionne concludes:

In just two weeks, the elation of Inauguration Day has given way to a classic form of partisan hardball. Obama and his advisers have been forced to learn basic lessons on the run. For starters, the media cannot be counted on to be either liberal or permanently enchanted with any politician. Arguments left unanswered can take hold, whether they make sense or not. And one more lesson: No occupant of the White House has ever been able to walk on water.

Obama and his advisers weren’t clueless, though, and they must have known Republican opposition was coming. What they may have underestimated was how successfully the opposition spin would resonate, not least because of a media establishment more than willing to manufacture drama.

And of course Obama is an unsentimental realist who knows full well he can’t walk on water, hence his efforts to reach out to Republicans in the first place. Where he acted in good faith, though, the Republicans are not, and he now must prove his mettle not by hovering above the partisan fray and seeking broad bipartisan consensus but by playing politics Washington-style. That may not be his style, nor his preferred method of governing, but it is what is needed now to get this stimulus done even in the face of loud, hostile opposition.

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