I have spent most of the past few weeks blasting the House GOP leadership for the incoherent messaging up to, through and now after the fiscal cliff fiasco. Throughout these weeks I have also had on the program many of the key pundits of the center-right to talk about the message fail, including Mark Steyn yesterday, and Ari Fleischer and Ross Douthat the day before. The transcript page doesn’t even begin to cover how many of these conversations I have had on air.
The good news: Tom Cole, one of the smartest of the old guard –but very, very old guard– gave an interview to the Weekly Standard John McCormack in which Cole lays out exactly the sort of message that needs to be done, stating quickly and without embarrassment the modest reforms in entitlements the GOP must have as a down payment on fiscal sanity:
“To me, the logical place to start are some of the ideas that the president himself has put on the table or indicated he’s favorable toward. Chained CPI is one of them,” Cole said, referring to an adjustment to Social Security benefits. “Gradual raising of the age on Medicare eligibility is something that ought to reappear. … I personally think one of the places Republicans are prepared to be pretty tough is means testing for higher income individuals, at least some sort of sliding scale similar to what we have Medicare Part D. On the discretionary front, I would expect some of the sequester to actually stay.”
There. Messaging. Cue the trumpets. Finally.
Now, if he (1) adds “block granting Medicaid” and (2) always, always, always says the party of Reagan will protect the Department of Defense from deterrent-destroying cuts, and (3) gets all 200 members of the GOP caucus to say the same thing everytime they appear on television or radio, while (4) pushing the Speaker to do an appearance or two a day saying the same thing –ditto the Leader and the Whip– then GOP will have successfully refocused the debate on the drivers of the debt crisis, the entitlements and the key obligation of the federal government, the Constitution.
I said to Mark Steyn yesterday, “I don’t really care so much what the House GOP does. But I do care a lot that they state clearly what ought to be done.” I don’t expect them to win. I expect them to educate the public why they ought to win and why the truly terrible things around the corner cannot be prevented by printing trillions more in hot money.
They can do this. But they have to try. Thanks to Tom Cole for doing so.