The Washington Post

The Paul Revere strategy

Is there any idea too crazy for the 2012 GOP hopefuls? Is there any nutty idea that, once proposed, GOP presidential candidates won’t try to match or even top?

Looks like we’re about to find out. As Think Progress reports, Herman Cain is now saying that as president he would only sign bills that were no more than three pages long. This would basically disqualify any piece of substantive legislation, including the George W. Bush’s tax cuts.

Now, perhaps Cain will back off if there’s enough ridicule, but the dynamic of movement conservatives usually works the other way around. Indeed, I suspect that if they haven’t done so yet, Republican operatives will soon begin deliberately planting easily-mocked ideas in their candidates’ speeches, the better to earn Palin-like credibility with activists and voters.

Call it the Paul Revere strategy, after the Sage of Wasilla’s skill in turning anything foolish she says into evidence that liberals and reporters are out to get her.

Another case in point: Tim Pawlenty’s “Google test” yesterday.

How will the rest of the field react if Cain presses them on this silly idea — which may be totally gibberish, but almost certainly will test well with Tea Party voters? My guess is they’ll jump on board. After all, virtually every Republican adopted last year’s nonsense about not being allowed to vote on a bill unless you’d read the whole thing.

And in case you think it’s just about cheap campaign gimmicks like this one, read Jonathan Cohn on how this kind of nonsense extends to real policy proposals. Or think about the 2012 GOP positions over the last ten years on everything from climate to health care to, oh, evolution. Note that things really don’t work the same way oon the Democratic side — unless I missed the point where the leading candidates in 2004 and 2008 adopted Dennis Kucinich’s platform.

Or perhaps one of the plausible Republican nominees will eventually try the opposite tactic of appealing to sane, sensible conservatives.

Hey, anything is possible.


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