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The President’s Cliff and the GOP’s House

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House Speaker John Boehner leaves a Capitol Hill news conference, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011.

Now it is up to President Obama to decide if he wants to go over the “fiscal cliff.”  The House GOP isn’t going to support tax hikes and massive cuts to Defense, and it demands the spending reform the country desperately needs.  The president can have more revenue, but he has been waging a political battle, not a policy fight, and if he keeps with the former, either the Senate or the House GOP must not cave.

The future of Speaker Boehner and the House leadership will be the subject of my first two hours today, but only as one part of a broader conversation about the future of the Republican Party and conservatism generally.

I will be joined in studio by three accomplished and very smart conservative activists: Tim Dunn, Eric O’Keefe and Mark Meckler.

Together and with the help of many other experienced and generous activists, these three have launched Citizens for Self Governance, and are setting about to encourage primary challenges to GOP House members who refuse to vote to advance the agenda on which the GOP ran.  They are also organizing to help target and defeat enough Democratic senators in the 2014 cycle to put the Senate back into responsible hands. Along the way they want to assist the grass roots conservative movement become effective far beyond its previous surges such as in the Tea Party-powered 2010 cycle.

I had set up the long interview weeks ago as a sort of send-off to the holiday break, but now it arrives at exactly the right time.  The GOP’s awful messaging and contingent commitment to its core values resulted in the rebellion in the Caucus last night, as principled members refused to buy into a pledge-busting tax hike or a negotiating strategy that seemed designed by a committee of Browns and Eagles coaches.  If Speaker Boehner is replaced by say Congressman Jim Jordan (or Paul Ryan) it won’t be because Boehner isn’t liked by Hill Republicans –he generally is liked.  It will be because the GOP loses every round to the president and has since 2010, and the inept House communications team has once again crippled the GOP’s arguments in the public square.  With the bruising battles of the next two years lined up like incoming planes, the caucus has to decide whether it is time to get serious about winning by electing a Speaker who tries not only to manage a small group of representatives but who can inspire and lead the country and explain why trillion dollar deficits and tax hikes are leading to financial panics and meltdowns far worse than the roller coaster sure to mark today.

Some House GOP members close to the Speaker are already spitting blood and teeth and looking to blame conservatives.  Pennsylvania’s Mike Kelly is one of them, and this is where the 2014 primaries will matter.  This isn’t personal, but if Congressman Kelly wants to insult conservatives and scream at them –as he was reported to have done last night in the caucus– for keeping their word to their constituents, I wouldn’t be surprised if local conservatives in western Pennsylvania decide he should have to defend his actions in a primary.  Maybe the reports aren’t true, and the congressman supports low taxes and spending cuts in truth and not just in words, but the next three months will be hugely important for sorting out the GOP caucus into those members who know the country’s dire situation and those who enjoy being a congressman.

“Plan B” was awful, conceived in secret by a less-than-brilliant staff and a tone deaf leadership that didn’t check in with anyone except Beltway lobbyists.  Beltway scribblers are horrified that Beltway values lost last night, and they are wringing their hands for the Speaker and the GOP about his and its “lost leverage.”  Really? MSM cares about the GOP’s leverage.

What happened last night was hopefully the opening act of a new era in loyal opposition, where the GOP says what it means and means what it says and isn’t hanging around to round the edges off of the Democrats destruction of the currency and the military.

Speaking of the latter, be sure to read Congressman-elect Tom Cotton’s Wall Street Journal piece on the possible nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, “A Soldier’s Eye View of Chuck Hagel.”  Cotton, an Iraq combat vet and former member of the 101st Airborne, lays out the most damning case against Hagel and hoepfully every senator reads it.  (Powerline’s Scott Johnson also recommends Alan Dershowitz’s critique of Hagel.)

Interesting times.  Jake Tapper going to CNN with a big opportunity is rewarding one of the handful of MSMers who do their jobs fairly and without fear or favor.  CNN is an organization in deep trouble, compromised by silly posers like Piers Morgan, and its new leadership decided to bet on smarts and integrity.  Good choice, and for the reasons Mark Steyn and I discussed on Thursday’s program (transcript here later today).  As the House GOP considers whether to make a leadership change, they have to ask themselves how badly is their brand damaged and if they make a switch, who can lead them with candor and make arguments to the public about the hard choices that have to be made.  Who won’t, in other words, lose every battle with Barack Obama and declare that it was the best they could do.


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