When the "compromise deal" reopened the government and raised the debt ceiling, I had the excruciatingly painful experience of hearing Sean Hannity’s radio interview with former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Hannity stated how proud he is of the conservative movement and Gingrich gushed how the Republicans are much better off psychologically after effecting their shutdown.
Who said these guys weren’t funny?
But since it wasn’t a comedy show, please tell me those entertainers don’t really believe that garbage. Please tell me they said those things to generate better ratings, hoping lots of curious people tune in to hear the dumbest things ever said on radio. Because if not — if Republican listeners actually put stock in what was said — the GOP is truly doomed.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger political disaster than what just transpired. Let’s review. The Republican Party:
Ran horrible candidates and lost big time in 2012;
Didn’t like Obamacare, but because of Point One, didn’t have the votes to repeal or amend it;
Saw its leadership (a classic oxymoron) shut the government down to stop Obamacare, except that it failed to remember Point Two;
Switched reasons (midway through the fiasco) of why the government was shut down, claiming its new rationale was to prevent a debt ceiling increase;
Agreed to a "deal" that A) raised the debt ceiling, B) didn’t touch Obamacare. In other words, Republicans won absolutely nothing. But they did earn a five (5) percent Congressional approval rating, which would make even Tom Corbett look like a superstar;
Witnessed its Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, take a $3 billion "Kentucky Kickback" pork-barrel project back home, while chastising the Democrats for their failure to cut spending. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, "… politics is the second oldest profession … it bears a striking resemblance to the first."
Hey Mitch, that would be you.
And here’s the best part. Many GOP leaders believe their tactics put the party in a better position to win elections.
Earth to the Republicans: Have we met?
The GOP is like a football team fielding just five players, getting shellacked by 50 points, declaring victory because it didn’t lose by 100 — and thinking it’ll win the next Super Bowl.
That’s not progress, nor is it a "foundation for the future." It’s grandstanding for stupidity’s sake. There’s no honor in suicide missions, nor is it admirable to valiantly fight for a "cause" when that cause either continually changes or is nonexistent. Hell, you can’t even call it a Pyrrhic victory, since the GOP didn’t win squat.
Knowing defeat was inevitable from day one, as Senate shutdown leader Ted Cruz admitted, amounted to political hara-kiri.
Here’s a newsflash for the Republicans. While the Democrats are certainly not blame-free in this mess, the public overwhelming blames you for the shutdown, which has seriously eroded your party’s credibility. Since the debt ceiling debate will rear itself again in just three months, you’d better come up with a strategy other than shutdowns and whining if you hope to advance your ideas.
Here’s how to make that vision a reality:
1) Admit to the nation you made a big mistake. Stop the justifications, and please, spare us the spin that you did the right thing, and that it has benefitted the party. You didn’t, and it won’t. If you can’t grasp those simple concepts, the party — and the Party — is over.
2) Dump McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner. Both exhibited a staggering inability to lead, which is kind of problematic if your job description is "leader." McConnell has absolutely no credibility after his latest sell-out, and Boehner can’t control his caucus. Remember, the shutdown was in no way a "conservative" vs. "moderate" issue, but one of basic commonsense — not picking a fight you can’t win. Get one more good cry from the Speaker, then boot him and McConnell.
3) Start a major PR campaign. It is mindboggling that with all its millions, the party won’t buy extensive network air time to explain its positions and how they will help the average American, since a majority believe in Republican principles of fiscal restraint, personal responsibility and smaller government. The best ideas in the world are worthless if you can’t explain them, as Gingrich’s Contract With America proved.
There needs to be set-in-stone promises, in advance so there’s no more 11th hour brinksmanship, that the party will never again vote for a deficit budget, nor will it further increase the debt ceiling, since spending more, as a solution to a spending addiction, is, by definition, lunacy.
4) No more continuing resolutions. Congress hasn’t had the guts to pass a budget in over four years, instead getting by with pass-the-buck short-term fixes known as "continuing resolutions." It’s time Congress upholds its most basic responsibility and passes a true budget, with across-the-board cuts; no exceptions. And drop the inside-the-Beltway lingo of "CR’s," since no one knows what that means, and you come across as even more out of touch than you already are.
5) Push for a Constitutional Amendment for a balanced budget. Almost every state has a legal requirement to balance their budget, and the people are fine with that. So why doesn’t the federal government do likewise? Remember, balanced budgets were achieved several times by the Republican Congress and Bill Clinton using something called bipartisanship.
More than a decade ago, many pundits claimed that a balanced budget would cool the economy. They were wrong. Last year, they claimed that if the sequestration cuts weren’t reversed, we would fall into a major recession. Mistaken again. Now, they’re crying that the sky will fall if the debt ceiling isn’t raised and the $85 billion per month gift to Wall Street is scaled back.
The issue isn’t whether doing those things is the right course of action, as they inarguably are. The $64,000 question is whether there will be a Republican Party left that can sell those ideas.
If the GOP doesn’t fix itself quickly, it will be curtains on a tragic comedy.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His print column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected]