Wednesday, April 12, 2006

can anyone tell me the difference between politics and policy today?

Ever see that fake ad on SNL in the early 90's for Bad Idea Jeans? Kevin Nealon, Mike Myers and Phil Hartman all talk about various things they are about to do which are totally disastrous: 'well he's a recovering freebase addict but we've decided to let him stay' or 'even though its over, i'm going to tell my wife about the affair. It ends with this group of pasty-white yuppie guys going to play a pick-up game of basketball against a muscular crew of black guys. Bad Idea. Likewise, it is a bit of Schaudenfreude seeing conservatives give Bush ideas as to what he needs to do now, as the nadir of the public's goodwill for him drops lower every day, after he has followed some of their crazier ideas already. For the good of the country I hope he listens to them. Then again, maybe trying it actually put into practice some of the popular ones, may be the only thing to discredit them for good. Listen to this 7-point plan

WHAT BUSH SHOULD DO [Rich Lowry, NRO's The Corner]

When I talk to people about the sad state of the Bush administration lately, we always ask ourselves, “Well, what can he do now?” And I never have an answer, nor does anyone I talk to. Which is a pretty good reason to give way to the kind of despair George Conway expressed today. But, after racking my brain, I have come up with (an admittedly thin) seven-point plan of action:

--Accept an enforcement-only immigration bill. This is a no-brainer. Bush can say, “Look, I love immigrants and we should welcome them, but the only consensus that exists at the moment is for enforcement. That's why I'm signing a tough enforcement bill, which will enhance our security at a time we face a dire terrorist threat. But I have also extracted a blood-oath commitment from the GOP leadership in the House and the Senate that a proposal for a guest-worker program and bringing illegals out of shadows will be a priority in the new Congress. Once we have better control of our borders, I am confident we can pass sensible, comprehensive, compassionate legislation on this issue,” etc., etc.

--Give some speeches denouncing eminent domain abuse. He can't do anything about it, of course, but the Republican base will love it and it's a broadly popular issue, so no one else will be offended.

--Talk about the economy as much as possible, and get a new treasury secretary to try to shift the conversation onto this topic (although I don't think John Snow is in anyway to blame for the administration's failed PR campaign on this front).

--Endorse the Ponnuru tax reform plan. Ramesh can spell it out more, but it basically involves an enormous expansion of the child tax credit. It can't go anywhere this year, but for a party that desperately needs substantive issues to talk about--and ones that aren't unpopular--it's a pretty good place to land for the time being.

--Push for the confirmation of his circuit judges that are pending. Talk about them by name. The GOP wins judiciary fights.

--Veto a spending bill. It will make him look strong, and the GOP base will love it. It will embarrass the GOP congress, but, hey, they deserve it, and ultimately the congressional GOP gains when Bush gains.

--Sit-down with conservative bloggers. They are some of his most loyal supporters--include them in the media out-reach.
Ok...big problem right off the bat: most of these are talking cures, not actual policy which is supported by the public, many of them aren't even positions which can be defended by the President due to his preexisting stubbornness on other issues, the least of which is he just isn't that inspiring and charismatic a speaker to begin with. You can't make chicken soup out of chickenshit, as they say on the farm. Let's look at those suggestions: number one lies on a flawed assumption, namely that the Republicans could sell an enforcement-only bill after these past few weeks of demos. Much as you would like to tar the Democrats as obstructionist or soft-on-crime for opposing such a bill, they have gotten swindled too many times to fall for this, especially when opposing such a bill is an across-the-board winner for bringing in new voters to the party. The base likes obstructionism on behalf of itself, just look at the mountain-moving governmental intrusion in the course of Terri Schiavo's life. Democrats won't pander to the fencebuilders or those who would keep guest workers as semi-citizens. That would be flip-flopping, after all wouldn't it? And how long are the evangelicals going to have your back when you talk about punishing charity towards the undocumented workers of America? Suggestions 2 and 3 both involve trying to change the national conversation from leaks and taps and Iraq to eminent domain abuse and the good news about the economy. Again, unless you get a new Treasury secretary who is also a rockstar (hard, considering no one wants that totally thankless task) whatever new line he spins out won't lift anyone's bustle. Not too mention that a bad choice would have to flop around before an election-year approval session by members of Congress eager for their own screen time. And eminent domain abuse? Give me a goddamn break: who supports the right of large multinational corporations to seize private property for the 'greater economic good'? Why I would imagine most of the Bush Pioneers when you put it like that, which is what this is stemming from. Suggestion 4 relies on new tax reform as election-year red meat and couples this with suggestion 6 with the token veto of a spending bill to distance himself from a cut-&-spend Congress. Of course, the hollowness of the later gesture will rob it of any credibility. The tax cuts are always a winner, the thinking goes, which is exactly why nobody really cares that much anymore. And suggestion 5 about the circuit judges, well again another chestnut for the base which appears sinister to people as they learn more about the unitary executive concept. And the last suggestion is so egocentric and back-patting it is to laugh.

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