May 15, 2008
POLITICS: Tom Davis: Bush Too Conservative On Spending. Yeah, That's The Problem.
With the latest setback in a House special election, Virginia's Tom Davis - who formerly headed the NRCC - has the long knives out for current head Tom Cole. But his diagnosis of the problem seems more a symptom than a cure:
Rep. Tom Davis stomped on the concrete floor of the Capitol basement when asked by reporters about Republican fortunes at the moment.
"This is the floor," he said, by way of explanation. "We're below the floor."
Inside the meeting, Davis had just presented his colleagues with what he said was a 20-page memo outlining his prescription for a way out of this mess. He did not offer details to the press, yet did not spare the party and the president scathing criticism in his public comments.
"The president swallows the microphone every time he opens his mouth," Davis said.
He believes Bush's staunch opposition to the Democratic housing bill and the SCHIP bill, for example, is hurting rank and file. Look at yesterday's vote on [stopping the purchase of oil for] the SPRO [the federal oil reserve], where Republicans defied the president in droves. Lo and behold, the White House says today that it will not veto the bill.
Today is also the day when the House takes up the farm bill, which the president has promised to veto. It's expected that this will become the second veto of Bush's administration to be overridden -- though the farm bill has more of a parochial dynamic than the national political one.
Now, as it turns out, when you go to Davis' actual memo, a copy of which is available through the Weekly Standard, he has a mixed bag of suggestions, some good and some not so good. But the long-time moderate Davis will have a hard time selling skeptical conservatives on his suggestions if the first thing out of his mouth is that the GOP shouldn't be fighting the few battles where it has truly stuck its neck out for fiscal responsibility.
What follows are the specific prescriptions in Davis' memo, which follow pages and pages of appropriately grim polling and fundraising data (is it really true that JC Watts is giving money to Democrats these days? Ugh.). As I said, some of these are good ideas, some not so much:
Gas prices - There is no immediate relief in sight. Democrats not only have no answers, they are part of the problem. Nigeria and Cuba are ready to drill off our shores, but Congressional Democrats say no. ANWAR and oil shale offer new sources, but environmentalists say no. At $124 per barrel, who are we kidding?
The President should send an emergency energy package to Congress and dare them to act. It should include some global warming initiatives to keep it credible, such as government's utilization of green buildings and use of energy efficient vehicles. But it should also include off shore energy exploration and oil shale production, plus more long-term research dollars on alternative fuels, such as cellulosic and wind and extended tax breaks for energy efficiency. It could or could not offer immediate tax relief at the pump. You don't want it to be too gimmicky. But, it puts us on offense and spotlights Democratic failures. And, it gives voters some hope that somebody is doing something.
I think this should also be tied to more energy independence. Appeal to Americans that we should not be dependent upon dysfunctional terrorist states for our energy supply in ten years: more domestic production, more alternative energy, cleaner energy and less dependence on Chavez, Nigeria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Not much new here, but Davis has a point about how the White House could put a bit more public pressure on the Dems to commit themselves to doing nothing.
You have to hand it to Barney Frank. He produced a bill that gives homeowners hope. Never mind that it puts the government on the hook for $300 billion in loan guarantees and doesn't solve the problem. What is our reaction? Our leaders walk out of a White House/GOP conference with the President and vow to uphold a veto! That says a lot. Where is our proposal? The President needs to send our emergency package to the Democratic Congress for action (or inaction which is likelier). We need to be on offense. The White House and, by extension, the Republicans in Congress end up taking the blame for the business cycle, subprime excesses and collapsing banking institutions. Paulsen has acted responsibly but no credit enures to Congressional Republicans.
Ditto - no new ideas, but at least fight for what we have.
At least the Republican Congress reported out immigration bills in each Chamber (though vastly different). The Democrats have just punted. Rather than deal with a tough issue, they punt. This can be a gift horse.
Immigration is one of the most polarizing issues of our time. Hispanics and business leaders want reform. Lou Dobbs wants reform. Taxpayers want reform. Democrats get away with doing nothing because we’re afraid of the issue.
Remember, Hispanic voters are a swing group in this election and future elections. John McCain, being from a border state, may be out of sync with many Republicans but he has standing among Hispanics. Barrack Obama has not made the sale to Hispanic voters. Thus, this issue is a tar baby for anyone who touches it, with land mines everywhere. But the Democrats control Congress and are doing nothing. This needs to be highlighted. Put the onus on them to produce a bill. Put them on defense.
The use of the term "tar baby," while an accurate metaphor, is perhaps unfortunate...given the divide between McCain and the base on this issue, it's a sleeping dog best left that way for 2008.
Do we want to make our economy stronger over the next decade? Send Congress a competitiveness agenda which includes Columbia, Panama and Korean Free Trade Agreements; education reform and immigration laws that allow an Indian PhD to stay here after his education is finished to start his company, instead of sending him back to Bangalore or New Delhi, to start it there and compete against us.
How about a tax system that works globally and allows our companies to compete internationally, instead of punishing them? Republicans are too defensive about globalization – its costs and its virtues. We need to stay on offense.
When Obama says he'll renegotiate NAFTA, his culturally liberal supporters near Central park or Menlo Park cringe. They know better!
Bill Gates was shocked that 90% of Republicans supported free trade, while less than 20% of Democratic members do. If you want to fix the economy, let's talk about the Democratic Congress's head in the sand approach to globalization. The public hates Congress. Why don't they associate Democrats with it?
A reporter was interviewing a farmer in 1956 about why he was voting for Eisenhower, when the farmers despised the administration and Agriculture Secretary Ezra Taft Benson. The farmer replied, "Well, no one associates Eisenhower with the Administration." Today, no one associates Democrats with the dysfunctional Congress. The President, even with his low approval ratings, can change the game by sending programs to Congress and daring the Democrats to act. He is our big microphone.
Alternatively, we can go our own way with our own programs, and even disassociate ourselves from President Bush. But, we should be on offense. Democrats won't even move NCLB, a good program that hasn't been defended very well.
At this point, it becomes clear that Davis is perhaps a bit too concerned with blaming Bush for all the message problems. Which is partly fair, but not entirely.
I agree with him on NCLB, but it's a program that for well-known reasons has few friends on the Right and nothing but enemies on the Left.
Barrack Obama wants to move Capital Gains taxes to 25%. In a floundering stock market that will chase away investment, not attract capital. We should continue to hammer away at the Democrat's tax proposals. Their numbers don't add up; they won't help the economy; and middle America is in no mood for tax hikes. The Bush tax cuts poll favorably and when you take Bush's name off and go cut by cut, they poll even more favorably. We should accent this difference. The President can make these cuts (or at least capital gains) part of his competitive agenda.
McCain voted against part of these cuts, but this is a particularly important line to draw in the Battle of Middle America. We should dare Barrack Obama to sponsor his tax bill this year, instead of speaking Happy Talk at 30,000 feet about middle class tax cuts paid for by the rich.
On taxes, the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle may be stale but that's because we have been fighting this same battle for four decades. Davis isn't suggesting a tax simplification agenda, which is the one way to break some of the stalemate but also historically a quixotic task.
War on Terror
We must continue to hammer on FISA every chance we get. Terrorism ranks sixth today as an issue, but one incident can propel it to first. Democrats will blame Bush for any problems, so it is important that the record on these issues be clear and concise.
FISA, intelligence funding, border security, etc. are critical and the lines between protecting our citizens and preserving privacy will crumble with a major incident. Although we all hope this will never happen, the Democrats have played partisanship with this issue since they took Congress. They cater to their college town, intelligencia constituency and, although no one may be paying attention today, it could be the issue in the fall. We should continue to build our record.
Nothing new here.
One issue of concern to all Americans is Health Care....Health Care is the weakest issue for Republicans. After all, aren't we the ones who opposed extending health care to children of the working poor (S-CHIP)? Never mind the policy arguments. Voters have made their choice. What we have not done is talk about the Democratic failings in Health Care. They control Congress. Their presidential candidates claim they want everyone covered. Where's the program? The Democrats, outside of S-CHIP extension, have really done nothing for Health Care. No tort reform. They opposed prescription drugs and Medicare, Part D. Medicaid continues to spin out of control. But give them credit. They went after Bush Administration Medicaid regulation - staying on offense. We are for lots of things: tort reform, physician reimbursement, preventative care and Medicare, Part D - but, who would know?
Our timidity in dealing with this issue has forced us off the high ground. Even with Medicare, Part D, the Democrats won the sound bite by making it look like we cut a sweetheart deal with the drug companies. Some deal - Pharma is giving 50% to Democrats! The fact that there are three formularies, with more buying power than the Federal Government has, gets lost in the Democratic rhetoric of allowing the Feds to use their leverage to bring prices down. Even Waxman's investigation showed the program works, so he dropped it like a hot potato. But, who'd know?
I'm not sure much mileage here can be gotten from just blaming the Democrats for waiting until after the presidential election to do much on healthcare - everyone knows a thing that big doesn't get done without White House leadership. The Medicare prescription drug issue is a quagmire - the GOP can tout it because it's popular, but it's also a fiscal catastrophe and one that was properly opposed by just a hardy few conservatives and iconoclasts, John McCain among them.
I blame conservatives.
Politicians are gutless, spineless wimps. Always act with that fact in mind. Conservatives want the GOP politicians in DC to fight against the massive propaganda tide that the MSM has unleashed over the last 8 years (really 4 decades, but it has gotten ridiculous with Bush in the WH). Ain't ever gonna happen. Expecting it to is insanity.
If conservatives want conservative policies out of Washington, they are going to have to stop preaching to the choir through their blogs and talk radio and start trying to reach the mushy middle of the American electorate that actually decides elections and gets its "news" from the MSM and Hollywood. Get the truth to the people and change the electoral dynamic. The GOP will get more conservative when conservatives get more voters to agree with them. Right now, conservatives aren't doing a damn thing to counteract the MSM propaganda.
If we don't adopt a Swiftboat model (enhanced) to get the truth out despite MSM boycotts, we deserve the ass-kicking we're getting. Blaming politicians in DC is just a gutless, spineless way for conservatives to avoid taking responsibility for their own failures to act.