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My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.
|I watched the President's press conference last night. Color me unimpressed.|
First, and most troubling, is that the President does not actually have a plan. He doesn't. He has some ideas, and he has a few guidelines (won't raise the deficit, will reduce costs . . . ) but none of those are actually his plan. He knows there's a few different things working their way through Congress right now, but none of them are well-enough fleshed out to be of any meaning, either. So what we're left with is this vague, rhetoric-filled argument about nothing in particular. Not that that stops him from demonizing or setting up straw men to knock down, but we still don't know anything.
Secondly, he just took up another hour of prime-time television to accomplish nothing. He had no new ideas, no new arguments, no new specifics, and frankly his arguments weren't convincing this time, either. So he used up an incredible amount of political capital to, in effect, change no minds at all. It's like a football coach calling a time out before an important third down and five, and sending in a fullback dive play: two yards, a cloud of dust, and nothing accomplished.
Which is all well-and-good, since I happen to think that this is a terrible idea that I hope dies in multiple committees.
The problem with that is that the President of the United States should never be in a position where he's wasting his capital or the American peoples' time. To much of the world, the credibility of the U.S. is directly tied to the credibility of the President, and when he is unable to accomplish anything meaningful with an important media event like this, it makes him--and us--look weak.
So why would he do such a thing, knowing full-well that his polls are slipping and that he had nothing new to add to the debate? Because that is the arrogance of this man, this administration, and this party. They believe that, since the rhetoric was sufficient to defeat the tired Clinton person and the geriatric GOP nominee, the rhetoric must be sufficient to accomplish any purpose. The people will follow if only I point them in the direction. They love me . . . or something like that. That is the underlying strategy of everything this adminstration and Congress do.
It is audacious. It is arrogant. It is tiresome. And, thankfully, it is finally starting to fail.
|(not, I suppose, to be confused with hiatal hernia. If, that is, "hiatal" is even a word.)|
Much of the commentary I've heard and read from my last post is along the lines of preferring to re-make or rescue the GOP, rather than outright kill it. And I respect that: there is a certain pragmatic realism associated with that position.
But I think it's possible that reality may be changing. And maybe it's possible that I listen to too much Glenn Beck, but my conversation with my father-in-law confirmed something for me: if there were a viable alternative to the two-party system, there are a lot of people who would be more than just a little interested in making that intellectual leap right now. The landscape has changed: union people, while appreciating the ownership of Detroit that Obama is giving to Big Labor, still have deep affection for America and are troubled by the vaguely un-American tone of the President; Big Environment is, at some point, bound to call in its markers with the newest or next Car Czar and all but shut down the auto industry (thus killing Labor); the niceties of the "public" health care system will be all but forgotten twelve months from now when a.) the actual cost of the program gets reported and b.) millions of people get that letter from their employers informing them that they are being dropped from private insurance and funneled into the "public" system (by the way, the handful of Republicans who will end up voting for this because they got bought will tarnish all Republicans); the Wars will again be front page as Iraq begins to collapse and the lawyers will begin to lose Afghanistan because a.) the press will want to cover ANYTHING but the domestic fumbling of this administration and b.) it will give them another chance to swing at Bush and Republicans for the War (don't buy it? what was the headline this past weekend . . . ); and three or four more Republicans will be forced to resign or be shamed by the fact they are human, hitching their trailers to the Religious Right has teed them up for charges of hypocricy, and some of them (ahem . . .Gov. Sanford) are just plain stupid.
Sure, the domestic bumbling will be pinned on the Democrats; but the Republicans will look just as bumbling because they can't keep a team on the field. And, as my brother said so well " . . . Americans want to be inspired, and today's GOP is possible the least inspiring organization ever!" So people will look to something or somebody to lead them out of the darkness.
If the GOP can find a star to grab the reins and command the stage with a message that, as the Captain says, understands limited government as defined by Amendment X, recognizes the difference between national interests and international wants abroad, and makes a new and strong case for competence and common sense, then I think the GOP can be remade. But that's gonna piss a lot of people off, and I don't think it likely that such a message can survive the powers-that-be. I could be wrong . . .I hope I am. But I don't think so.
And, by the way, if you don't think "bumbling" is a good word to apply to the GOP, just watch the Sotomayor hearings. Anybody with an even passing interest in this already knows about the "wise Latina" speech, so there's no point dwelling on it--besides, anybody with half a brain knew it would come up, and knew she would have a good answer for it. What the public needs to hear is HER talk about her judicial philosophy. Set her up, and make her answer to contradictions. For instance:
Senator: Do you believe the Constitution contains an absolute Right of Privacy? Where is it found?
Do you believe the Constitution contains a prohibition against holding illegal combatants in a time of war? Where is THAT found? And define what constitutes "cruel and unusual" punishment, and to whom that clause applies in a Constitutional sense.
Do you believe the Constitution allows the federal government to regulate the activity of an organization, such as a gun manufacturer or a religious sect, that limits its activities to a single state? Where is that found?
Explain you understanding of the Equal Protection Clause. How does that justify preferential treatment for one group of people?
Do you believe that the Constitution forbids the sort of prayer which begins every SCOTUS session? How do you balance the Free Exercise Clause with the Establishment Clause?
Now, you've cited a number of Court precedents, some treaties, and some intellectual writings as justification for your judicial philosophy. Can you then explain how that philosophy would fail to embrace plain-text readings of the Constitution with regard to Free Exercise or the 2nd Amendment?
Crude, but you get the point. Sen. Kyl would do well to realize that what we need is not a well-formulated, informed question that yields a short, pat answer; what is needed are short, direct philosophical questions that force long, deep answers. But again, even the smartest GOP Senator falls victim to the desire to look smart on TV (for the 43 people watching), completely forgetting that what they need is a 30-second sound bite from the nominee that can be turned into a commercial that will be seen by millions.
For the record, S.Sotomayor seems very smart, very poised, and quite liberal. I stand by my long-held position that a filibuster is inappropriate, but that doesn't mean the Senators need to support her. Hold a vote, vote "no", let the public understand how the Left is remaking the country through the Court.
But I digress. The Left is overreaching in breathtaking fashion; the Right is incompetent. The case needs to be made for a smarter approach to running the country, and I would welcome it from within the GOP.
But I'm open to it from without.
|. . . and the landscape is a little grimmer.|
It's not just that the Republican brand is damaged. The Republican brand may be SO damaged as to be unrecoverable. And it's not just the Bush/Cheney/Iraq angle, like I think too many GOPers are comforting themselves with. It's that from top to bottom there is a dearth of ideas, there is a lack of leadership, and there is almost no understanding that the game is different now.
Who's the last GOP figure to make a strong policy statement? Newt? Okay, but he is hopelessly damaged goods. And besides, he "debated" Al Gore on climate change, and ended up agreeing with the Prophet. And so, we all get saddled with a trillion dollar climate cap-and-tax bill that has almost no hope of accomplishing anything other than crippling our economy. I'm not exactly optimistic that either Alan Carlin or John Christy will show up on the witness list when the Senate gets around to holding hearings on the bill.
Because the Republicans in the Senate are weak. And unwilling to fight.
I understand part of their dilemma--common sense tells you to only fight one battle at a time, and I suppose they're keeping their powder dry for the health care debate. The problem is, if the enemy attacks on three or four fronts at once (climate, health care, Sotmayor, not to mention foreign policy), then you had better be prepared to fight on that many fronts, also.
And, by the way, a salvo or two for the press would be well-deserved. A press that seems to be in "shock and awe" at the Obama administration's multi-front policy drive. But I digress . . .
Was a reasonable alternative mentioned in the House? I think so, but nobody made a very good case for it. Or, at least, not a case that made it through to the public consciousness. Which is amazing, since the public doesn't really care for cap-and-tax. But Republicans couldn't make the case.
Which may be why--or because--eight Republicans actually voted for this thing. Eight.
That's where that lack of leadership comes in. These eight had better not get a DIME from the NRCC or the GOP, or . . . oh, whatever.
Leadership would also have been useful to shut down the stimulus so we could avoid a $787 billion dollar bill to save . . .ZERO jobs. At least, apparently, since the bill was supposed to prevent a jobs crisis but we climbed to 9.5 percent unemployment, anyway. How's that climate bill gonna help that?
But all of this is just complaining--pointing out the obvious flaws in a political party that has already been massacred in the last two elections. I guess that's nothing terribly original or useful.
What worries me most is the future, and the fact that the game has changed. Politically, the GOP seems to still be fighting a Marquis of Queensbury fight while the Dems and their allies are fighting a street fight. If this were a real party interested in winning, somebody would have presented to the press a redacted version of their notes from the CIA-Gang of Eight briefings in which the CIA told her about "enhanced" interrogations. And the one, solid, grassroots effort to assert conservative ideas has been shunned by the old men at the center of the GOP power circle. I was at the Tea Party this last weekend, and was amazed at the principles articulated. What's more, the next day I was in the car with my father-in-law, a lifetime labor Democrat, who is now exploring the wisdom of Libertarianism.
But he doesn't trust Republicans, and he's never been more open to their message. They just don't have a message that will resonate with him.
But the Tea Party party seems to.
The Republican Party is dead. It must either be reborn in a Reagan/originalist image, or it must be stashed and have dirt heaped on it's grave. I'm open to the latter.
I'm not sure what you would have to call it, but let me throw this out: the Independence Party. We stand for originalist ideas of limited central government, states' rights; we stand for a strong national defense with limited and clearly defined international responsibilities; we stand for open markets and economic freedom; we stand for American sovereignty and the right to protect our own borders; we stand for American individualism and the need to disentangle from international institutions.
But mostly, we stand for the rights, privledges and responsibilities articulated in the Constitution of the United States.
Sounds like a Republican platform . . . from 25 years ago. If the GOP still stands for these things, they've not acted like it. So they should join the Whigs and the Soviet Communists on the trash heap of history.
Really, what difference could it make? Would that sort of a thing guarantee an electoral failure? Oh, wait . . . we already have that.
And it might--MIGHT--at least widen the dialogue and educate Americans about what their country really is.
footnote: my hope--and, really, the only explanation I can come up with--for Sarah Palin to quit her job so early is that she wants to be in the forefront of the formation of this new Party, and it would take somebody with her sort of celebrity to give it the priority it deserves.