By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, May 26, 2010; A02
Republicans want to take over the House in the fall, but there's a problem: They don't have an agenda.
So on Tuesday, they set out to resolve that shortcoming. They announced that they would solicit suggestions on the Internet, then have members of the public give the ideas a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. Call it the "Dancing With the Stars" model of public policy.
Republicans were very pleased with their technological sophistication as they introduced the Web site, America Speaking Out a ceremony at the Newseum. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who created the program, said that to get software for the site, "I personally traveled to Washington state and discovered a Microsoft program that helped NASA map the moon."
Using lunar software is appropriate, because the early responses to the Republicans' request for ideas are pretty far out:
"End Child Labor Laws," suggests one helpful participant. "We coddle children too much. They need to spend their youth in the factories."
"How about if Congress actually do thier job and VET or Usurper in Chief, Obama is NOT a Natural Born Citizen in any way," recommends another. "That fake so called birth certificate is useless."
"A 'teacher' told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish!" a third complains. "And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story."
House Republicans, meet the World Wide Web.
GOP leaders seemed to have something else in mind as they rolled out their new site. "I would expect the ideas that come out of this Web site and the involvement of our members will lead to ideas that we can attempt to implement today," House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) proclaimed. "We want to continue to offer better solutions to address the problems that America is facing, and we see this as a giant step forward, directly engaging the American people in the development of those solutions."
"Build a castle-style wall along the border, there is plenty of stone laying around about there." That was in the "national security" section of the new site.
"Legalize Marijuana, cause, like, alcohol is legal. Man. Also." That was in the "traditional values" section.
"I say, repeal all the amendments to the Constitution." ("American prosperity" section.)
"Don't let the illegals run out of Arizona and hide. . . . I think that we should do something to identify them in case they try to come back over. Like maybe tattoo a big scarlet 'I' on their chests -- for 'illegal'!!!" (Filed under "job creation.")
The Republican leaders attempting to demonstrate their technological savvy at the Newseum brought to mind former Alaska senator Ted Stevens's observation that the Internet is a "series of tubes."
The Web site not only "has cutting-edge technology," asserted Rep. Peter Roskam (Ill.), "but a winsome design that is easy for people to interact with."
Lest you think Republicans are just discovering the Internet, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) let it be known that "House Republicans have tweeted five times as many as the House Democrats. Leader Boehner has almost five times as many Facebook fans as Speaker Pelosi." Boehner grinned and gave a double thumbs-up.
Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) contributed to the discussion by twice giving out the wrong address for the new site.
House Republicans had experimented with reality-show-style policymaking before. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) has been having Internet users vote on which government programs to cut, but that experiment was more tightly controlled.
This one, McCarthy said, would do nothing less than "change the course of history." The Web site filters out obscenity and the like, but it hasn't kept out hundreds of ideas: some serious, some offensive and some so wacky they surely must be Democratic sabotage.
"Let kids vote!" recommended one. "Let's make a 'Social Security Lotto,' " proposed another. "What dope came up with the idea of criminalizing a parent's right to administer corporal punishment?" a third demanded.
Some contributors demanded action to uncover conspiracies involving the 9/11 attacks and the "NEW WORLD ORDER." One forward thinker recommended that we "build the city of the future somewhere in a non-inhabit part of the United States, preferably the desert."
Some of the uglier forces of the Internet found their way to the House Republican site. "I oppose the Hispanicization of America," said one. "These are not patriotic people." Another contributor had parody in mind (we hope): "English is are official langauge. Anybody who ain't speak it the RIGHT way should kicked out."
But Republicans might want to take a hard look at the suggestion that "we need to reframe the discussion" about the BP oil spill to counteract the "environmental whackos" worried about wildlife. Republicans, this person proposed, should argue that "BP is creating a new race of faster dolphins. These fish are unable to compete against the fish of other countries, but now their increased lubrication will allow them to fly through the water. Faster fish = good."