17 November 2010

Do they have ANY ideas?

I'm just riffing here, so give me two minutes ...

I made the mistake of watching the Senate Republican leadership -- McConnell, Kyl, Alexander, Barrasso and Thune -- address the congressional press corps after the announcement regarding the new Republican leadership.

Meet the new boss -- same as the old boss.

(First off, John Thune is an impressive physical presence. He has to be at least 6'5", and towered over his colleagues. While he looked a little uncomfortable making his short remarks, that guy looks like a president. For whatever reason, voters of all stripes go for that sort of thing. He is my dark-horse pick for the 2012 nomination, especially if Mike Huckabee doesn't run. He's so popular in South Dakota, the Democrats didn't even bother spending any money against him.)

After all five senators made their remarks, McConnell took half a dozen questions. In response to five of them, his answer was simply, "That's something we'll discuss." The only question McConnell actually answered was whether the Republican caucus hoped to repeal the healthcare law, to which McConnell responded in the affirmative.

Do these guys have any ideas? I mean that in all seriousness.

Of course, on the one hand, there are many, many Republicans who have great ideas. Read any of these (see here, here or here) profiles on Mitch Daniels, who I hope will be the next president. Paul Ryan's Roadmap is a thing of beauty. Chris Christie is just awesome. Among others, Ross Douthat and David Brooks are conservative pundits who are brimming with ideas. At one point, Newt Gingrich was this way too.

The problem is that these guys aren't the leaders. As long as McConnell and Boehner are in charge of the congressional Republican caucus, the stonewalling will continue. McConnell has been an avowed opponent of banning soft money in campaigns and has been a voracious earmarker -- only seeing the light 48 hours ago when the base put immense pressure on him. This is a man with no significant legislative accomplishments, who rose to the chairmanship of the RSCC -- the office that determines what campaign money gets spent on which candidates -- within his first term in the Senate. His entire Senate career has been marked by aggregating power not to advance the conservative cause, but rather, simply for power's sake. McConnell understands that because he hails from arguably the most conservative state in the union, the consequences of this attitude toward governance are negligible.

Remember McConnell's appearance on the Sunday talk shows in August? Ten weeks before the election, when pressed, McConnell refused to tell David Gregory what the Republican agenda would be. He played coy, telling Gregory that he -- and the voters -- would have to wait until after Labor Day to hear the Republican platform. This was politics at its worst from the man who was asking voters to make him Senate Majority Leader.

The Republican Party is not out of ideas, per se. Ryan and Daniels, among others, have plenty. But I see no agenda being pushed by the leadership that is anything but pro-Washington, pro-rich and obstructionist.

The totality of the McConnell agenda unfortunately appears to be repealing Obamacare -- even the popular parts, like the ban on lifetime maximums or the ability of twentysomething children to temporarily buy into their parents' insurance plans.

This might be a good way to score cheap political points during the next 18 months, but if voters said anything two weeks ago, it's that they're sick and tired of politics as usual.

And McConnell's career has been defined by nothing if not that.

The GOP follows him at its peril.

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