Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole joined me on Friday’s show to review what the GOP decided to do in Williamsburg.
Audience reaction was mixed. The good news is the GOP has a “plan,” one that was widely reported, and which is better than having no plan at all. The bad news is that most of the specifics of the plan are either a state secret or not yet worked out.
Cole was willing again to repeat that the real budget problem is entitlements, but that is where the specificity ended. It was a start, but here is what the House GOP still does not appear to get: It needs to lay out its plans, with a level of detail that inspires confidence.
Check out this schedule. Remarkable! We know when all the Tribe’s Spring Training games will be played and where. We even know that pitchers and catchers report on February 10. Opening night is March 31 —incredibly it is the Rangers at the Astros– and rosters must be at 25 by that day. (Never understood why the Reds got dropped as the opening day club, but the Rangers and the Astros?)
The point is MLB has a real plan. Lots of moving parts. Lots of trained staff doing lots of small things so that the fans can anticipate and plan. Hard to build support for and enthusiasm around a secret plan.
The GOP still does not get that it must not only announce it intends to do good things, it must lay out those good things and a schedule by which the House GOP hopes to do its part–in detail! OK, the House GOP didn’t want to try and win with the debt ceiling. Fine. It is being moved back to April 15 and the sequester and CR will be the political battlegrounds.
Buit to what end and by what dates? What does the GOP want and when does it want it? Not that tired “$1 in cuts for a $ in spending,” but rather incremental though real entitlement reform, though it won’t be of the sort that Paul Ryan proposed and Romney/Ryan campaigned on. Cole mentioned the key factors: raising the age of Medicare eligibility, probably doing the same with Social Security and matching Medicare and Social Security eligibility ages –probably at 70 as Cole noted. Means-testing for Medicare? Medicaid block grants? Whatever the objectives are, the GOP needs to articulate time and a strategy for achieving them. I pressed Cole on using the CR to do these things and he used the classic that isn’t what CRs are for, when in fact CRs can be for anything the House majority wants them to be for via riders. But I don’t care provided the House GOP lays out what they want and how they intend to get it –in detail.
The old House ways resisted specificity because then folks could assess when you had “lost,” and in the old days elected officials hated having to say they had lost.
But the times have changed. Now the political problem is not losing but in failing to try and win. Being passive is a much greater sin in the face of overwhelming problems than getting beat. Winning is best by far and the GOP might win, but the only politically disastrous course is not laying out the objectives, the plan by which they will be achieved and then honestly and effectively communicating progress towards those goals or defeats along the way.
Not sure if the House GOP intends to embrace this level of transparency. If it does, the base will rally around it and support it. But iif the House GOP turtles up again, the disappointment will become dismay and then contempt and then primary challengers in very short order. See John Hinderaker’s post this morniong for the category the House GOP must avoid. (And thanks to Scott Johnson for pointing me towards Ed Driscoll’s very timely post.)
It looks like the GOP leadership made a change. We will know for sure by the end of next week. If we can say when and where and for what the House GOP intends to fight, things will be much better than I had expected.
This timing happens to coincide with the National Review Institute in D.C. Up until the GOP’s retreat, the NRI folks were preparing to issue Republican Congressmen bags to wear over their heads at the gathering, especially when Mark Steyn spoke. But now there is an opening to re-establish some semblance of credibility and the bags can stay on the shelf. Maybe.
But don’t despair. Girl Scout Cookie season is upon us, though it too has a dark side.