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The Speaker and the Journal

Friday, March 4, 2011  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Mixed news on the GOP Leadership front. The morning after Mark Steyn and I kicked around the dreadful communication skills of the House GOP leadership as well as the lack of urgency coming out of the “new majority” in Congress (the transcript is here), Speaker Boehner tells the Wall Street Journal that big cuts in Social Security and other entitlements are on the way.

That is the very good news. Here’s the bad news. The Speaker has the information imbalance exactly wrong.

“People in Washington assume that Americans understand how big the problem is,” the Speaker told the Journal, “but most Americans don’t have a clue.”

It is as though the Speaker never heard of the Tea Party, or assumes it is a small band of not very consequential nutters.

In fact the average voter does indeed know how desperately broke the country is and cannot fathom why the Congress is moving at the speed of a picnic in July.

Even more bad news: The Speaker indicated he won’t go to the mat over the debt ceiling.

Even worse news: An interview with the Wall Street Journal appears to be the Speaker’s communication strategy on two major issues –the willingness to cut Social Security and the give on the debt ceiling– and that “strategy” begins with a statement of voter cluelessness.

What matters more than anything else is results, of course. If John Boehner pulls off the $60 billion in CR cuts and all of the “big four” must-haves noted in the post below, and then backs up Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan on a FY 2012 budget that dramatically reshapes America’s spending by demanding deep curbs on every aspect of government except national security spending and does so without tax hikes, all of the criticisms will fade overnight.

The trouble with the delay is that competing proposals are shaping up that will be presented as alternatives to Chairman Ryan’s blueprint, whenever that blueprint appears. My conversation with Senator Tom Coburn from Thursday’s program in which he announced that the secret negotiations among senators has yielded an agreement to greatly reduce the home mortgage deduction (transcript here) is just one example of how the initiative will be lost if the House keeps to the old schedule that sees a Budget Resolution unveiled in April.

What the House GOP needs is a “case statement” about the vast size of the current and looming deficit and debt, a concise summary of why this is deadly to the U.S., and a paragraph summary of the cuts that will be coming in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid when the budget is unveiled. They have to know that by now –or at least an approximation of what that outline will look like. Sitting on it makes no sense at all, not when other narratives are already crowding out the one with a mandate behind it.

Some communication strategies are easy. See, for example, my conversation with Rick Santorum on how to handle the birthers and the MSM’s fixation on them.

That is easy.

So too is the GOP message on spending, if there is a script, one that is sharply focused and specific and which is repeated on every show from every senior figure in the caucus down to every freshman member, followed by a willingness to take and answer questions from a public that is anything but clueless about the fiscal peril the country faces.

I’ll cover all this on today’s show, as well as an extended conversation about the home mortgage deduction with First Trust’s Brian Wesbury and Roger Schlesinger, the “Mortgage Minute Guy,” who has originated thousands and thousands of home loans in the last decade.

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