Free Markets, Free People
James Carville, a Democratic consultant who is usually wrong about everything manages to be wrong again. However, I have to admit to hoping Democrats and President Obama take his advice:
Contrary to what you might think, I am a proud member of the pro finger-pointing caucus. It wasn’t too long ago that my longtime colleague Paul Begala and I urged our friends on the other side of the aisle to engage early and often in the blame game.
Now it is the Democrats’ turn. Point fingers is exactly what Democrats have done following Republican Scott Brown’s surprise victory in Massachusetts, and the subsequent setback for healthcare reform .
The White House, Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney-general, Celinda Lake, her pollster, congressional Democrats, the Democratic National Committee, Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, and Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, are just a few of the circular firing squad that has sucked up every last breath in Washington this past week.
Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss or for the healthcare debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.
Really? Pointing the finger at Bush is panacea for all that ails the Democrats?
Pretty simplistic pap, wouldn’t you say? Martha Coakley could have stood at a podium 24/7 and talked about the demon George Bush and how he’s laid us low, but that wouldn’t change the fact that the Democrats owned the pork laden stimulus bill, the latest bacon bonanza of a spending bill, the economy killing (and thankfully languishing) cap-and-trade bill and the health care reform monstrosity, would it?
Blaming Bush seems so wussy. Like the playground habit of pointing your finger at a playmate and claiming the situation in which you’re caught to be of his making. “He did it”. There’s a natural aversion to condoning that sort of blame shifting. It just doesn’t sit will with most people.
But Democrats, at least until recently, have believed the Carville route to the be one which would insulate them from criticism. Lay it on the previous guy and you will be covered. MA, NJ and VA give some glimmer as to how well that’s worked so far, don’t they? Some Democratic advisers are seeing that as a loser now:
Howard Wolfson, a senior official on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and veteran Democratic communications guru, noted that his party was able to run against Republican Herbert Hoover’s Depression-era presidency for 30 years.
“That doesn’t seem to be the case here,” he said.
Indeed it doesn’t. In fact, my guess is it tends to alienate voters because it is such a cheesy, infantile excuse. Most people understand that some of the troubles the country face didn’t happen under this administration’s watch. And they also understand they were “inherited”. But for heaven sake, does that have to be said each an every time you address a problem? If that’s not bad enough, how about trying to blame current problems that are indeed a result of Democratic policies on the previous administration? It is preposterous, tiresome and unworthy of an administration which would like to be considered seriously. How can you take seriously people who continually blame others and won’t take responsibility and ownership now that they’re in charge?
“Voters are pretty tired of the blame game,” said longtime Democratic strategist Steve Hildebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign. “What a stupid strategy that was.”
“Was?” According to Carville, it should be an “is” strategy. And to an extent he’s right, although he doesn’t make the clear in his advice. How can “blame Bush” card be effectively played? Very selectively in relevant elections – but certainly not as a wild card for everything.
“It’s got to be highly relevant,” said pollster Joel Benenson. “It has to be done in a way that’s not gratuitous and on issues that affect people’s lives. You can’t just brandish [Bush’s image] and wave it like a pennant.”
“Voters are smart about this,” added pollster Geoff Garin. “There’s got to be some credible relationship, either in terms of how they voted or [in terms of] specific policies that they’re supporting now.”
It’s not, Garin continued, one size fits all, but for some GOP candidates, the line of attack still carries some promise. He cited Rep. Roy Blunt, a House majority whip in the Bush years who is now running for a Missouri Senate seat, and former Rep. Rob Portman, who served as Bush’s budget director and is now running for the Senate in Ohio.
“Those people were really present at the creation, and making the case against them as helping to create the Bush economy is still very powerful,” Garin said.
Those two cases are two in which the “blame Bush” card might have some relevance. But my guess is it would have a very limited effect. Bush is gone, and frankly, Obama has some voters pining for him. In effect, depending on how the Obama presidency proceeds, it could end up backfiring on those who use it, even in relevant cases. It is the “now” that voters concern themselves with. That means they relate their condition to who is in charge now as well. Most are going to consider the blame game a pretty poor attempt to divert attention rather than facing the problems at hand. And voters rarely reward those they think are avoiding the issues via distraction.
So despite saying how lame I think Carville’s advice is, I have to hope the heck the Democrats heed it and double down on the blame Bush strategy. It will drive independents crazy and into the arms of the GOP faster than “Pants on the Ground” went viral.
The WSJ carries a story this morning entitled “White House Toughens Tone”. The essence of the article is the White House intends to use the State of the Union address to push an even larger agenda and isn’t about making any “abrupt policy shifts”. He will, however, be stressing jobs.
OK. So what? I think we’ve seen a year of speeches which, for the most part, pushed a nebulous agenda but then saw an ineffectual White House unable to push any of it through. What will be different with the SOTU address (other than the fact his use of his teleprompter will be in front of adults vs. sixth graders)?
The article also touts the fact that David Plouffe will be joining the staff of the White House. That is a purely political move, having little effect on policy or its accomplishment. Plouffe is a spin-meister whose preferred venue is a campaign where claims are rarely questioned. That’s not the venue he will find in the White House. And again, if nothing in terms of leadership from the White House follows the SOTU speech, the result will be much the same as it has been all year, Plouffe or no Plouffe.
“People are working harder,” White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” referring to the economy. “If they have a job, they’re working harder for less. They’re falling behind. That’s been true for a decade. They look at a wave of irresponsibility from Wall Street to Washington that led to that. And those were the frustrations that got the president elected in the first place, and they were reflected again on Tuesday” in the Massachusetts election.
All that Republican can hope for is David Axelrod and the White House keep believing this. The frustration he’s seeing from voters has little to do with Wall Street, despite the White House’s attempt to make it a populist cause. What is “frustrating” the voters is the out of control government spending and the massively increasing size of government and it’s continued intrusion into their lives. Yes, they want government focusing on the economy and jobs. But not if the “answer” is throwing more money we don’t have at it. Do what is necessary with tax cuts (such as an immediate one for payroll taxes) and rolling back some of the regulatory regime to encourage business to hire and expand. But Democrats and the White House seem oblivious to the fact that 56% of the country opposed the so-called “stimulus” and still do. So I look for Obama to promise massive spending increases to support whatever “focus” he brings to jobs in the SOTU address.
As for Republicans? Well, they have it wrong as well:
Republicans, meanwhile, said their victory in Massachusetts was spurred by opposition to the health overhaul. “The message in Massachusetts was absolutely clear,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “The exit polls that I looked at said 48% of the people in Massachusetts said they voted for the new senator over health care. Only 5% mentioned any other issue. The American people had a victory in Massachusetts, and they were sending us the message ‘Stop and start over.’ ”
Certainly health care was the immediate issue that is most identified as a reason for voting for Brown, but Brown’s overall theme was less spending, less taxation and smaller government. The voter’s disapproval of health care was just part of a broader disapproval of an out of control government spending them into penury. People are finally frightened by what they see. Over the decades the increases in the size, scope and spending of government has been relatively slow and incremental. But within the last year, it has been so massive that even the most disinterested of citizens has been alarmed by it. Democrats are seeking to raise the debt ceiling by 1.9 trillion dollars – again.
This sort of spending is recognized as “out of control” by even the least informed among us. If Republicans focus only on the Brown victory being about health care, they will, as usual, have missed the real problem and the real issue. And that’s unfortunate because it is an issue that plays to their strengths much better than it does those of Democrats. Scott Brown is going to Washington DC because he’s talked about making government smaller, less intrusive and less expensive. He ran a good campaign focused on those primary core issues. It is a blueprint for the coming midterms if the Republicans are smart enough to figure that out and use those broad issues against this Congress and President. They need to get over gloating about stopping health care and make the point that it’s about stopping explosive government growth and the spending that goes with it. It’s about telling the people we can’t afford this and they’re the ones to right the ship of state and cut back on its size and expense. For once, it appears the people are ready to listen to that message. I’m not sure how many more hints they have to throw the Republican’s way before they finally figure it out.
More information about the now discredited Himalayan glacier claim:
The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.
Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.
As is obvious the so-called “science” was nothing more than concocted tripe used strictly for political purposes. And the fact that it was included, without peer review and never double checked raises doubts about the scientific nature of the IPCC report in toto. Lal’s admission is incredible. The fact that it was never further checked by those who put their reputations on the line by signing the IPCC document is equally as incredible.
As we skeptics have been saying since the beginning, this is as much about a political agenda as it is about science, and in the last few months, the science has been found to be severely wanting. This is simply the latest in a long line of credibility destroying revelations which should have now made every thinking person out there a skeptic when it comes to the “science” of AGW.