Free Markets, Free People


The GOP’s Tactical Mistake

I’m of the opinion that politicians are usually not quite as smart as they think they are.

Yesterday the GOP helped prove my point.

They invited the President to their caucus retreat.  It’s a pro-forma invitation.  To their surprise, he accepted.  And then he took control of the event by suggesting the media be allowed in.  In a tactical mistake, the Republicans agreed.  Why?  Because, as usual, they were more concerned about what others would say about them (specifically and pundits and the media) than they were about how the situation would be seen by the public.

In the end, they end up looking foolish in front of both.

They were outflanked by the President. The desire to be seen in a certain light was overshadowed by the result they unwittingly enabled.

What am I talking about? What was the tactical mistake?

Quite simply the format of the meeting to which they agreed. They handed the President a perfect, uninterrupted platform from which to do exactly what he did – lecture them – with a minimum of risk to himself and maximum of exposure to his benefit.  Decorum demanded they sit and take it. No Joe Wilson “you lie” on this one. Sit and take.  And take they did – Obama was able to spin the myth of their intransigence and obstructionism as the crux of this year’s problems.

Rule One: You never give your political opponent a format that favors him and his message.  The President understood the advantage he was being handed and decided that while it was a bit of a political risk, it was one heavily weighted in his favor and well worth taking.  Anyone who watched it understands why.

The question and answer wasn’t much better – although Republicans did get him to admit their proposals did exist and were substantive. But other than that, the exchange was not at all what the GOP had hoped for.

Surely some among the GOP leadership must have foreseen that this format presented a gold-plated opportunity for Obama to do just what he did.

As for the President, he got the opportunity for a one-sided vent. Again, as usual, it was “just words”. But in this media driven political culture, “just words” are a means for scoring mostly meaningless political points, but points none the less.

It was a President in denial. And for those of us who’ve followed what’s happened this year (and what he has and hasn’t done) that was clear in his words. This was a man trying to justify himself and shift the blame for this year’s failure – as usual. Unfortunately, because he had the podium, that’s the only voice that was really heard that was able to remain on message. So he wins that rhetorical round. But it doesn’t mean what he said was true. It only means he got to say it without any real rebuttal.

My favorite line was “I’m not an ideologue”.

Of course he is. If he were the pragmatic politician he claims to be, he’d have pursued jobs and the economy as his first priority beginning last year. He didn’t. He instead pursued (and continues to pursue, in the face of majority public opposition) his party’s ideological agenda. Those are the actions of an ideologue, self-denial notwithstanding.

Hopefully the GOP will, should this ever happen again, change the format to that more like that which the UK has when the PM interacts with the opposition party in the House of Commons. No speeches or lectures, a true back and forth in which both sides have the opportunity to give as good as they get. I’ve admired and enjoyed that tradition of theirs for years. That removes the advantage of yesterday’s format and allows a truly “frank exchange” to take place.

~McQ

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42 Responses to The GOP’s Tactical Mistake

  • Given that the dominate media is echoing this sentiment, you are probably right in terms of how many folks will view the event (I dont know if the left realizes just how much a supplicant media shields them from the “pitchforks”).
    Having seen the event, speech and Q&A, I disagree.  Obama showed himself to be out of touch, in too deep, and ill-suited to tackle the problems besieging this nation.
    As Reason headlined, Obama Decries Divisive Rhetoric, Says Healing Can Happen if Opponents Stop Being Such Effing D-bags
     

  • I suspect it doesn’t matter what forum they used.  They’re terrified of being vilified in the media.  A large enough block of them have enough to be ashamed of (wide stand, divorcing wife with cancer, mistress, financial dealings of one kind or another that can be vilified, …) they will always cow.  Those are pragmatically self-interested RINOs.

    Overlap them with philosophical RINOs.  RINOs who know their free pass (or freer pass) with the media puts them in the drivers chair with their less than conservative views.

    The party needs a purge.  Get the corrupt out.  The philosophical RINOs don’t necessarily need the boot.  They just need to be made honest what section of the party they represent and not through their more conservative peers under the bus.

    • They’re terrified of being vilified in the media.

      And justifiably so. It makes little difference what they do and what approach they use, the LapDog media will have a conniption fit if they don’t go along with Comrade Zero, and they’ll present that fit to the 50% of the populace that still get all their information from said LapDog media.
      Remember how the media did, and still does, report Reagan’s massive cuts in welfare spending? That mythology still lives on.

      .

      • I might add that one should look at how well the media has vilified Republicans regarding the Real Estate collapse and the resulting financial meltdown.

  • The GOP is arrogant, inept, or, most likely, both.

  • I’d say the prospects for bipartisanship are dim.
    If Obama can live with that thru the November elections, fine.  He has made his bed.

  • we said from the start that it was going to be important for us to be consistent in saying to people if you can have your — if you want to keep the health insurance you got, you can keep it, that you’re not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decision making. And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.

    snuck in … violated that pledge …
    I thought he said they were all on C-SPAN or such. Would he still have signed it if it violated that pledege ?

  • The Republicans are making a huge tactical mistake beyond this in thinking that Obama’s troubles, which relate primarily to the economy, but are also enhanced by the fact the left wing of the Democratic party hate the fact he’s a pragmatist and wish he was an ideologue, make it likely the GOP will bounce back.   Much of Obama’s loss of popularity comes from the left, they would prefer an ideologue.  They won’t go to the GOP.  And with the stimulus working to get the economy going, jobs will start coming back.  What the GOP needs to do, with Obama, is work to solve problems and build compromises.   Obama is showing amazing leadership in laying out the problem, challenging the Republicans, avoiding politically popular positions to focus on real issues.   If the GOP thinks going hard right to the “tea party” fringe will help them, they will find themselves completely outflanked for the next seven years.
    It was fun watching Obama school the GOP and show how petty their attacks are, and challenge them to actually show some responsibility to do more than just run a perpetual campaign.  I think in retrospect this week will mark the start of a real comeback in Democratic popularity, and the GOP will find 2010, despite some gains, to be disappointing compared to their fantasies.   They aren’t as strong as they imagine themselves to be.

    • Obama is not a pragmatist in the ordinary sense of the word (i.e., a practical man); he’s a revolutionist, bred and educated to hatred of the country he leads. He certainly has roots in big-”P” Pragmatism, in the sense that he is connected to the statist, technocratic, eugenics tradition of American Progressivism, and he is also more explicitly Marxist than any major politician since Henry Wallace.

      He has already screwed the proverbial pooch in his first year in office, however. He wanted revolution (“fundamental transformation” of America) and tried to shove it down the throats of an increasingly rebellious public. Like Bill Clinton, Obama’s narcissism knows no shame, and he’s going to swing around and try a new angle of attack on American society, using all the power of the presidency.

      As to the tea party movement being fringe, that’s just total nonsense. Obama is the fringe. Just like you are the fringe, Scott. And it’s pretty clear to me that he’d prefer to fire the whole team (i.e., regular Americans) so that he could have a population more receptive to the fringe attitudes ot the manager.

      To call him a pragmatist, i.e., a practical man, is to insult practicality, man, and meaning itself.

      Nothing new for you, Scott.

    • The Republicans are making a huge tactical mistake beyond this in thinking that Obama’s troubles, which relate primarily to the economy, but are also enhanced by the fact the left wing of the Democratic party hate the fact he’s a pragmatist and wish he was an ideologue, make it likely the GOP will bounce back

      >>>> They’re just reading polls, which say you’re wrong, as usual.

      The real mistake would be if they mistake their gains for support for them as opposed to support for anyone not an incumbent

      • PS Scott-

        The only thing that will remake a comeback for the Dems is employment. If it rises, Obama and the Dems sit pretty. If it doesn’t……buh-bye.

        • Are you rooting against people finding work in order to hurt Obama and the Democrats chances?    In any event, I do agree, it’s all about jobs.   Reagan bounced back from his early lows because jobs came back along with the economy, that’s key for Obama as well.

          • We’re not talking about anything like a Ronald Reagan, Scott.

            There’s nothing here that’s part of the usual cycles of American history.

            This guy hates America as much as you do, and you know it, and your effort to baby talk this like a Doris Kearns Goodwin laughing her way through the demented incompetence of FDR lends you the affect of a street corner hot dog vendor who simply must explain in detail why he’s out of mustard today.

    • Erb, the Democrats will continue to lose ground no matter how inept the Republicans are because they have no leader. Despite your attempts to cast him in the best light Obama is a total failure.
      Look at his agenda going into his presidency. Card Check, Cap and Trade, Health care, closing Guantanamo, etc.  Despite having control of both houses, he got exactly squat done in one year.
      The only thing he did get done was to let Reid and Pelosi walk all over him and pass a monstrous pork barrel wish list of a bill that we will be paying for for centuries.
      He is not a leader, period. He makes Bush look like Winston Churchill by comparison.  Of course there is still a lot of time for him to try and get it right, but I don’t think he can, he is a silly narcissistic academic with a pie in the sky ideology (which is probably why you have such affinity for him).  He is unconnected from reality.

      • You keep telling yourself that, Kyle.  It really reminds me of what the left was saying about Reagan in 1982, they were absolutely convinced he was a one-termer as his numbers dropped.  But I think you overstate your insults of Obama precisely because deep down you know he’s got a decent team around him and if the economy improves he’ll bounce back.   You know, it’s ironic how similar ODS is to BDS.   The left had such a hatred of Bush that they could not work with him, even after 2005 when he changed his policies to reflect the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan.   Now the right can’t work with Obama because they hurl the same kind of insults at him that the left hurled at Bush.
        Sigh.  That’s the problem.   Both sides are so ready to personally attack the other sides’ leaders that they’ve lost the capacity to compromise and cooperate.   And if that capacity is not found by both sides, the decline of the US will grow in pace and extent.   So lock yourself in your ODS, that syndrome may feel comfortable.  But remember what you guys said about the left and BDS, and apply the same kind of descriptions to yourselves.

        • It’s a conflict between ideas, Scott, not “sides.”

          Obama is booked up with more bad Leftist ideas than he’ll be able to get to if he was president for the rest of his life.

          And he didn’t just get shot down by proxy because of jobs. He got shot down because his ideas are repellent in even the most notoriously liberal state in the U.S.

          And a practical man is not someone who tries to shove a rotten federal bureaucratic takeover of the U.S. medical industry down the throats of the American people while they are telling him that they do not want it.

          That is a man after the accumulation of more power over the lives of Americans, right to the point where they can be told how and when they are obliged to die.

  • I didn’t see anything wrong with the Republicans having an open meeting with Obama, even on his terms.

    They needed a good look at the guy. They probably still have a way to go to seeing him for the dangerous malicious liar that he is, given that they inhabit D.C.-world, where the interior lighting isn’t conducive to clear seeing.

    Like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, Obama was ready for his close-up. And as I keep repeating, the normative terms of American politics are not sufficient for understanding what he is up to and don’t supply any good direction for what is to be done with him.

  • I’m not convinced that it was a bad thing or showed Obama in a positive way at all.
    Even people who think Obama really socked it to them, think that he socked it to them.     To “school the GOP” isn’t even remotely like demonstrating a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner.     So if the plan was to show Obama reaching out?     Well, he pretty clearly wasn’t.
    What I saw was the Republicans (pro-forma or not) inviting Obama, in essence reaching out to him… he was speaking at their event, he was their guest… and Obama arriving and scolding them in the voice of a lecturer telling them to straighten up.
    Yes, those who like Obama think this was just *sweet* but very few people are saying it was something other than a smack down by Obama of Republicans.
    Thus NOT anything new or different or reaching out in a bipartisan way and attempting to build a bridge or engender a cooperative spirit.
    And you know…  working with people was supposed to be what Obama was good at.

    Politically, at this point, the Republicans only need to reach those who are disenchanted *enough* that they become able to look at Obama’s behavior as it might be perceived by the opposition.
    A hectoring lecture, a smack down or schooling…  that’s only a win for those who are still enchanted by the Won and get a woody any time he scores a “hit”.

  • Martin McPhillips[The Republicans in Congress] needed a good look at the guy. They probably still have a way to go to seeing him for the dangerous malicious liar that he is, given that they inhabit D.C.-world, where the interior lighting isn’t conducive to clear seeing.

    While I suspect that all but the most dimwitted GOP members of Congress have already figured out Imeme, I agree that having him show up and almost immediately start hectoring them and blaming them for all his f*ck-ups didn’t win him any friends in a group of people whose help he will need if he plans to pass much of anything during the remainder of his term in office.  If things go as well as many of us hope, he may have a GOP majority to deal with in the Congress come next January, and he’s made it quite clear that his only interests are to use them as a whipping boy and feud with them.  They’ll be happy to reciprocate.

    Further, while it may have helped his image a little to beard the lion in his den, Imeme otherwise keeps demonstrating that he hasn’t learned a thing.  Instead of taking the Mass. election as the final wake-up call that he must moderate his policies and behavior, he seems intent on continuing to behave in the arrogant, truculent manner that has gotten him where he is after only a year in office: unpopular, distrusted, increasingly ridiculed, and with little or no hope to advance any more of his agenda.

    Making the GOP look like a pack of fools doesn’t help him much (everybody knows they are a bunch of idiots, though more and more people seem to realize that they are not quite so bad as the democrats), but p*ssing away an opportunity to mend some fences with them… Well, as I’ve written before, how stupid can he be???

    • Further, while it may have helped his image a little to beard the lion in his den, Imeme otherwise keeps demonstrating that he hasn’t learned a thing.

      He really hasn’t. He seems to think his voice casts magical spells, and if he just tries a little harder, the magic will kick in.
      Or maybe his blathering is more like the Jedi mind trick. It only works on weak minds. Like those of backwater political science professors.

  • Don’t lose sight of the fact that very very few were watching this event.

    • Because it was an obvious ‘reaching out from the republicans’ than was essentially rebuffed.

  • Seems as though he was pretty quick to ask for cameras at this event, after stiffing CSPAN when it came to covering the talks on health care reform.

  • The GOP is run by a bunch of morons.

  •  

    prag·ma·tism [ prágmə tìzzəm ]

    noun 

     

    Definition:

     

    1. way of thinking about results: a straightforward practical way of thinking about things or dealing with problems, concerned with results rather than with theories and principles

    http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_1861737498/pragmatism.html

    Neither Obama nor Erb are the ‘pragmatists ‘ they claim to be. They claim to be concerned about results rather than process or ideology, but when they are finally forced to admit that there are adverse consequences to their results they fall back on idealogy to justify their ideas. Of course getting them to even consider that there are some drawbacks to their results is a major battle, and it is certainly not ‘pragmatic’ to deny that although every cloud may have a silver lining, it is still a cloud. Big government is bad? Maybe, but it is necessary to control the even greater bad of unchecked capitalistic greed . The reason Obama et al. uses those heart wrenching health care anecdotes is not pragmatism, it is emotion and ideology.

    • Quite. Obeyme is solid on form and appearances, not results.
      Having never been responsible for practical results, rather than elections and pandering, how could he have even the most basic clue about how to ACHIEVE those results?

  • Definition of ‘pragmatism’— The ends (results) justify the means.

    So yes, Obama and Erb are pragmatists.

    • Timactual, you clearly do not understand pragmatism.  It’s more in the tradition of William James and Walter Lippmann, and can guide very principled political action.  In this case it’s about putting ideology aside (ideologies are always vast simplifications of reality that obscure context and yield unrealistic goals and policies) and work with others to compromise and solve problems.   I think personally a lot of conservative/Republican ideas are very good.  I think the Democrats and Obama have a lot of good ideas.  I think that if they try to fight ideological jihad, the country will lose.  If they work together, compromise, and problem solve, we might pull ourselves back from the abyss.   The country is at a very crucial point in history.    If we go the wrong way now, we might never recover.   Already China has taken the lead in technology in clean and alternate fuels.   Americans who ideologically want to deny the danger of oil shortages or need for investments in new technologies because they trust ‘the market’ will find we’re buried by China and the EU if we don’t get our act together.
      Mark my words.

      • Would you for once in your life consider not just making it up as you go along.

        You’ve already used up your reserves of Laughingstock and you’re deep into the silos of Object of Pity.

        • Somehow, Martin, when I read your posts I get the image of some local crank at a school board meeting shouting about how incompetent everyone is, with most people rolling their eyes with the “there he goes again” look on their faces.  I mean, it’s just so over the top!

      • It’s more in the tradition of William James and Walter Lippmann, and can guide very principled political action.

        Oh…those guys whom Mussolini was so fond of?
        Good, Erb; at least we see what YOUR version of pragmatism is.
         

        • Good, Erb; at least we see what YOUR version of pragmatism is.

          That should be PRINCIPLES, not pragmatism.

        • Sharpshooter, do you know what a logical fallacy is?  You just committed one.   Who Mussolini was fond of is irrelevant to the arguments at hand.   Not only don’t you support your claim, but even if it’s true it’s argumentum ad hominem.  Both James and Lippmann were true believers in democracy and open debate and discussion.   Lippmann was a journalist who also participated in helping the allies in the war effort in WWII.   I can’t believe how low some of you sink sometimes.

          • Erb: ‘Sharpshooter, do you know what a logical fallacy is? 

            Logical fallacies are your bread and butter, Scott.

            And Lippmann, FYI, was one of those who urged FDR to assume dictatorial powers. He was a “true believer,” all right.

  • My principles, sharpshooter are clear: limit the abuse of power and maximize human liberty.   We can see in history that both corporations and govenrments can deny freedom and abuse people. We see that the strong often subjugate the weak, both at individual and at “corporate” (or governmental) levels.
    We never see a society that is stable and functional with an extremely small government, unless it’s pre-modern low population tribal structures. We did see a growth in government in the West with modernization and industrialization, but often as a response to things like child labor, massive pollution, abuse of workers, no opportunity for lower classes to move forward due to lack of education, public health crises and the like. By most accounts, much of what governments have done have made things better for a lot of people.
    But we have seen governments respond to market based exploitation and abuse of corporate and financial power by becoming worse than the problem they were trying to solve. They created dictatorships, tried to alter religious belief, cultural practices, and control all of life. These governments actually made things worse for the people — including causing holocausts, purges, and in China’s case, 30 million deaths due to bad judgment from the leader.
    To me, the role of government is to find the middle ground. To try to expand freedom and check power, without becoming a force that does more harm than good in the process. I do not see a clear way to know when the line is crossed, and thus am really concerned about process and assurance of equal opportunity to participate effectively in politics than a particular outcome. I see ideological visions on the left, right, and libertarian…at one level all can sound very persuasive, yet somehow they never work in practice like they work in theory. Whether it’s Marx’s belief in a communist utopia, or a libertarian belief in markets as best when left as alone as possible, I think the theories don’t take into account the complexities, paradoxes, and uncertainties of the real world.
    So I stumble through, trying to figure out what’s best for particular issues, hoping to find that line between too much and too little government, hoping to figure out how to maximize freedom and minimize abuse of power. But it’s a moving target, poorly lit.

    • Erb: “My principles, sharpshooter are clear: limit the abuse of power and maximize human liberty”

      You’re lying.

      You’re two functioning principles are anti-Americanism and socialism. And you’ll lie about it all day, every day, forever.

  • Walter Lippmann, from “Public Opinion”, pp. 126-27: <!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:”Cambria Math”; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-1610611985 1107304683 0 0 159 0;} @font-face {font-family:Calibri; panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:swiss; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-1610611985 1073750139 0 0 159 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:”"; margin-top:0in; margin-right:0in; margin-bottom:10.0pt; margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoPapDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; margin-bottom:10.0pt; line-height:115%;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>

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    “So where two factions see vividly each its own aspect, and contrive their own explanations of what they see, it is almost impossible for them to credit each other with honesty. If the pattern fits their experience at a crucial point, they no longer look upon it as an interpretation. They look upon it as ‘reality.’ It may not resemble the reality, except that it culminates in a conclusion which fits real experience.”

  • Sorry about all that code, I’ll not cut and paste from my notes again.  If someone can delete that comment, I was quoting Walter Lippmann, PUBLIC OPINION, pp. 126-27:
    “So where two factions see vividly each its own aspect, and contrive their own explanations of what they see, it is almost impossible for them to credit each other with honesty. If the pattern fits their experience at a crucial point, they no longer look upon it as an interpretation. They look upon it as ‘reality.’ It may not resemble the reality, except that it culminates in a conclusion which fits real experience.”
    I am asking you to consider the possibility that each side, left and right, is honest and concerned about the future of the country.   And that neither side can be certain they have the right interpretation — as humans we are fallible, relying on experience and our own biases.   If Americans can do that, we can overcome the “competing narratives” politics that causes gridlock, and instead think about solving problems.    We’ve all gotten angry with the other side, called names when we shouldn’t have, and let emotions get into the discussion.  But right now the problems are simply so great that kind of thing can lead literally to our downfall as a country.