In the ongoing dust up over bank regulation, President Obama complains that GOP leaders are deploying a "cynical and deceptive assertion that reform would somehow enable future bailouts -- when he knows that it would do just the opposite."
As I read him, President Obama thinks that is it out of bounds to talk about bills in light of what unintended consequences they might have. Assuming the President is acting in good faith, the goal of the bill is certainly to end such bailouts. But if we have learned one thing about legislation over the years, it is that if often, perhaps always, has unintended consequences, often perverse ones. And there are intelligent people of good will who think that the banking bill will, in fact, lead to more bailouts. Perhaps they are wrong, but they, and those who think they may be right, are not merely being cynical. By suggesting they are, the President is being needlessly divisive and petty.
Hence the only way to resolve this argument is to consider what the bill will, in fact do, and not what it is, in fact, designed to do. In other words, we're dealing with plausible guesses. But such humility about our ability to solve problems with legislation is bad for the political class, and for the people who get paid to support and write about them.