Where's the positive Republican agenda?
The "Party of No" can't seem to get to yes. In the short term -- think the November midterm elections -- that might suit Republicans just fine. But that doesn't make it right.
This approach probably explains Andrew Card's surprisingly aggressive "arrogance" riff against Obama yesterday. It might also explain non-answers from Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) and former counselor to President George W. Bush Dan Barlett when I asked on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" yesterday what the GOP's positive agenda is going forward or whether it had a responsibility to have one.
"What's our positive agenda?" asked Shadegg. "You serve in the minority in the U.S. House or the Senate and tell me how you move a positive agenda. We're outnumbered in the house by almost 80 votes. We have an agenda. The agenda is the economy. The agenda is creating jobs by reducing the tax burden on American job creators, on small businesses. That's an agenda...Mrs. Pelosi, will she put that bill on the floor?" Cut taxes? That's it? That's all he's got?
Bartlett said I had a point when I asked whether the GOP had a responsibility to put forth a positive agenda. But then he said this. "I don't think it will make much of a difference at all if Republicans were to put forward a very comprehensive proposal." He said the midterm elections are "going to be a referendum" on the Obama administration. Bartlett said that his party needn't worry about the vision thing until 2012. "It's the next cycle when we start talking about presidential politics where the party will be compelled to put forward not only candidates but ideas that the American people can rally to."
Funny, being outnumbered in the House or the fact that it wasn't a presidential election year didn't stop Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1994. He co-authored the Contract with America, which was unveiled on the eve of the 1994 midterm elections. That document and its specific plans helped end 40 years of Democratic Party control of the House, made Gingrich speaker and reduced President Clinton to declaring, "The president is relevant" at a press conference four months into Republican rule of the House. The only person who comes close to offering anything resembling the Contract with America is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) -- and the Republican leadership treats his ideas like a bald-headed step child with a wooden leg and a kickstand.
Matt Miller does an excellent job explaining why Shadegg, Bartlett and other Republicans have embraced "No!" and "hell no!" like life preservers. "Deep down," he writes, "Republicans know they haven't developed serious policy responses to the economic anxieties of the middle class. This (rightly) scares them." I wish there was a way to scare them straight. The nation doesn't benefit from having a major party reduced to heeding the call of the extremes of its base rather than engaging in the art of compromise with the majority, which produces great legislation for the benefit of the American people. That would require leadership. No?
| April 1, 2010; 10:23 AM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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