On Fox News Sunday Karl Rove had this advice for Republicans on the scandals plaguing the Obama administration:
Yes, well, with all due respect, every argument in politics generates a counter argument. And the counter argument that will be generated if Republicans try and make this a big push against President Obama is the ordinary American will look there and say, you know what, that is going over the top.
Yes, the GSA thing needs to be reformed. Yes, there needs to be a top to bottom review of this issue at Secret Service, but the Republicans will make a big mistake — I agree with Joe and Bill — this will be a mistake if the Republicans do it. They need to do it with restraint.
Sure, it creates a problem for President Obama. It adds to the sense that Washington is broken. But if the Republicans try to make this a point in their arguments, they are making a big mistake.
As a preliminary matter let’s put the Solyndra episode aside. Rove didn’t include that in his admonition and for good reason. That is a scandal that flows directly from Obama’s fanciful “green jobs” strategy and includes a cabinet secretary. Not only is that fair game, but it should rightly be at the center of Mitt Romney’s argument that Obama’s idea of capitalism is cronyism and his notion that government should embed itself in whole sectors of the economy is fatally flawed.
But getting back to the argument on the other scandals, Republicans (at least not yet) aren’t claiming Obama wants to waste gobs of money with the General Services Administration or that he approves of the Secret Service malfeasance. But at least the GSA scandal does illustrate a key point Republicans are making: We have not cut government to the “bone” and we really haven’t evaluated which departments and agencies we could do without.
Do we need a government-run property management company — the GSA — or could we engage private firms more cheaply to do the same tasks? Obama has no interest in finding out or in methodically going through the federal government to downsize and shed non-essential functions. That’s a legitimate issue, and one that Romney with his business background and record as governor is well-positioned to make.
Republicans (not libertarians who would like to do away with most of what the federal government does) have argued that the larger government gets and the more functions it takes on, the more corruption you get and the less functional it becomes. That’s been one of the arguments against Obamacare and a persuasive theme to raise in the general election, especially with independents who are already convinced that debt is a problem.
So, certainly ham-handedness should be avoided. But whether it is the GSA or the Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Education Department, there is no reason for Republicans to be shy: There is plenty more to cut, and plenty of tasks that the federal government has taken on that can go to the states ( e.g., Medicaid) or be left to the private sector or be done away with all together.