Thursday, February 11, 2010

Article Of The Week

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Gene Lyons, who defended President Bill Clinton in The Hunting of the President, has written (here appearing in Slate) "Don't Give in to Media-Inspired Criticism," arguing

The raw political truth is that the GOP reacted to its 2008 electoral losses by elevating party over country. The fundamental strategy has been to harass the Obama administration with hysterical falsehoods, prevent it from getting anything important done, then argue that Democrats are incapable of governing. So far, they appear to be getting away with it.

He believes the Democrats should hold the health care summit proposed by Barack Obama "without them. Then pass the bill without them, too. The president must lead his skittish party."

Lyons maintains that calling the GOP's bluff would be good strategy, noting

How long did it take House Republican leaders to start crawfishing away from Obama's proposed nationally televised healthcare summit? Also two days. See, the last thing GOP leadership wants the public to understand are the bill's conservative elements: its reliance on private, not government insurance; that it will cut the deficit and slow spending growth; that it gives consumers more choice, more security and more freedom.

Pushing back against congressional Republicans appears to be effective strategy. Lyons recalls

How long did Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby persist in putting a "blanket hold" on administration nominees after his attempt to blackmail the administration into awarding a defense contract to (Alabama-based) Northrup over Boeing once the White House made it front-page news? Two days.

And there is additional precedent, not cited by the columnist. On September 9 Republican Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina famously yelled during the President's State of the Union address "You lie!" after the President stated "the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally."

Five days later the House passed a "resolution of disapproval," officially rebuking Joe Wilson for his breach of decorum. But it was not without controversy. Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele wrote "If we are going to march members down to the well of the House to apologize, Joe Wilson is going to have to get in line behind Nancy Pelosi, who attacked the intelligence community who protects us, Charlie Rangel who cheated on his taxes, Jack Murtha – a walking scandal, and we all know how the Democratic leadership tried to protect William Jefferson." Noted conservative columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin added "Nary a peep about corruptocrat Charlie Rangel or CIA-smearing Nancy Pelosi or unhinged Pete Stark Raving Mad, etc., etc. etc."

This GOP talking point was repeated by several others including Sean Hannity, Neil Cavuto, Megyn Kelly, Monica Crowley as conservative Republicans hinted at retaliation against Democrats for rebuking Wilson.

The rest is history or- in this case, not history- there was little or no retribution by the GOP. It is often said that "payback is a b----" but here there was none. We refused to give up our lunch money to the bully and he slinked away. Gene Lyons may have been referring specifically to health care legislation but the application is broader: "The GOP can make Obama look weak only if he helps them."

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