As I said on Friday, with all the dysfunction in Washington over the last few weeks, I heard a lot of pining for the days of Bob Dole and Tip O’Neill. And with the passing of former speaker Tom Foley, there is a new gusher of nostalgia for the old days, when Democrats and Republicans walked hand in hand by the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial. Give me a break; when Foley was speaker, acting with civility and comity was in a member of Congress’s best interest. In those days, you had to be nice to your committee chairman in order to get a friendly hearing for what you wanted inserted into whatever bill was under consideration, when you wanted your earmark included in an appropriations bill, if you aspired to be a subcommittee chairman, etc.
Almost all of that is meaningless in Congress today. No one is really legislating anymore. It’s all about the periodic mega-votes on continuing resolutions or the symbolic votes that the interest groups rate and the talking heads obsess about. For many Republicans, what they really care about is whether or not the Club for Growth will give them a pass in their primary, whether they get face time on a cable news shouting match and whether or not the bloggers and talk radio hosts think they are sufficiently belligerent about all things Obama. The lack of strategy and collective discipline has produced an every-man-for-himself political culture that is the enemy of real policy development.
As former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour has said, “Good policy is the best politics.” Well, if you don’t make any policy, you don’t get any good political results. I make it my business to try to be a loyal advocate for the GOP cause, but even I’ve lost track of what we are really trying to accomplish. And don’t tell me our No. 1 priority is to defund Obamacare. I get that, but it’s not possible under the current power-sharing arrangement allowed by the Constitution. We need to launch a Plan B.
The talk about the demise of the Republican Party and the wounds the party has suffered as a result of the recent showdown over the budget/Obamacare/debt/whatever else is overstated, but we still need to be for something realistic and offer plausible solutions. We have no shortage of challenges. Now would be a perfect time to introduce a unified GOP alternative to Obamacare. Not stray random ideas or piecemeal retreads, but a real solution. The worst-case scenario would be for Obamacare to implode and for Republicans not to have anything to offer in its place.
And speaking of foreign policy, this White House is more dangerously delusional than ever. Just read Ely Ratner and Thomas Wright’s piece from The Post this weekend, “America’s not in decline — it’s on the rise.” This White House already has a noticeable problem because it can’t be self-critical or admit mistakes, so this column was no doubt celebrated in the West Wing, further enabling the delusional notion that Obama can do no wrong and that America is actually stronger abroad, not weaker.
Ask anyone from Moscow to Singapore if America is stronger or weaker than it was 10 years ago and the answer is almost shouted back at you, often in an incredulous tone as the speaker nearly rises out of his or her seat. And let’s ask ourselves two simple questions: Where in the world is the United States stronger today than it was on the day Barack Obama was elected? And what key relationship between the president and a foreign leader has developed as a result of Obama’s initiative, charm or just plain courting? There isn’t a place in the world today where we are more influential than we were before Obama took office, and there isn’t an international leader who is more likely to go out on a limb to support us.
So will Republicans step into the void, articulate a proactive, positive vision for the future, unite our party/country and above all else, lead? Nothing less than the GOP’s standing as a credible national party and America’s unquestioned global leadership is at stake.
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