Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 23, 2010

WITH 'PLEDGE TO AMERICA,' HOUSE GOP SHOOTS, MISSES.... Months in the making, House Republicans will unveil a new agenda this afternoon, and it's called the "Pledge to America." It won't be formally released for a few hours, but the contents are already online, offering us a chance to see what the GOP has in store.

Barring a dramatic last-minute overhaul, the "Pledge" appears to be something of a joke. I saw one analysis last night that characterized the document as "ridiculous," "laughable," and "dreck." The review added, "This document proves the GOP is more focused on the acquisition of power than the advocacy of long term sound public policy."

Did this come from the DNC? No, it came by way of a leading Republican media personality.

Looking at the bigger picture, it's tempting to think House Republicans deserve at least some credit for making the effort. After all, the GOP hasn't even tried to craft a policy agenda in many years. The point of the "Pledge," presumably, is to help demonstrate that congressional Republicans aren't just the "party of no"; this is a new GOP prepared to reclaim the mantle of "party of ideas."

But that's precisely why the endeavor is such an embarrassing failure. The document combines old ideas, bad ideas, contradictory ideas, and discredited ideas. The Republican Party that lost control of Congress four years ago has had an abundance of time to craft a policy vision that offered credible, serious solutions. Instead, we're confronted with a document that can best be described as tired nonsense.

Ezra Klein's take was entirely in line with my own.

[Y]ou're left with a set of hard promises that will increase the deficit by trillions of dollars, take health-care insurance away from tens of millions of people, create a level of policy uncertainty businesses have never previously known, and suck demand out of an economy that's already got too little of it.

You're also left with a difficult question: What, exactly, does the Republican Party believe? The document speaks constantly and eloquently of the dangers of debt -- but offers a raft of proposals that would sharply increase it. It says, in one paragraph, that the Republican Party will commit itself to "greater liberty" and then, in the next, that it will protect "traditional marriage." It says that "small business must have certainty that the rules won't change every few months" and then promises to change all the rules that the Obama administration has passed in recent months. It is a document with a clear theory of what has gone wrong -- debt, policy uncertainty, and too much government -- and a solid promise to make most of it worse.

If Republicans set out to prove that they're wholly unprepared and incapable of governing effectively, they've succeeded beautifully. That may have been obvious when there was an actual GOP majority and they failed on a spectacular, generational scale, but any hopes that the party has since learned valuable lessons quickly fade with the release of the "Pledge to America."

Indeed, the moral of the story this morning is very likely the fact that Republicans probably shouldn't even try. Last year, the House GOP released an alternative budget, which was so tragically pathetic, it neglected to include any numbers. Several months later, the House GOP released an alternative health care reform plan, which made no effort to actually improve a dysfunctional system.

And today, the House GOP will release a "Pledge" that simply doesn't make any sense to those who take reality seriously. It's a reminder that the Republican Party just isn't good at this sort of thing. It excels in attack ads, smear campaigns, and media manipulation; but the GOP struggles badly, to the point of comedy, when asked to do substantive work.

Ultimately, it may not matter. Voters are frustrated by a weak economy, and so Democrats are very likely to lose badly in November, even if they're being punished for trying to clean the GOP's mess. But electoral success for Republicans in the fall need not translate to an endorsement of this "Pledge." It's a transparent sham.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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Comments

Ah, just what we need! 'A Contract ON America.'

Jesus, they'd have been better off coming in and saying they're not ready 'cause the dog ate their homework...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on September 23, 2010 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

It is like neither party wants to win: the Repubs act crazier and crazier and the Dems just stand there saying nothing.

Posted by: Bob M on September 23, 2010 at 8:07 AM | PERMALINK

When you are running a bankruptcy sale you do not need a business plan, you just sell everything to the people who hand you the most cash. At bottom the group calling itself the Republican Party lie, cheat and steal their way into office so they can wield power for the sole purpose of selling off government favors to the rich.

Posted by: robert on September 23, 2010 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

There are several moments of unintentional -- at least I think it's unintentional -- irony, including the line about "an unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary". Isn't it a little late to be going after the Bush administration and the "unitary executive," the rubber-stamp GOP Senate and House of 2001-2007, and the Supreme Court that gave us Bush v. Gore?

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on September 23, 2010 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

A sham to whom? I have to go to work in a few minutes and listen to my business partner tell me how great this is.

To him (and Fox, etc.) this will be just short of the 2nd coming of Christ - regardless of what it does or doesn't say.

Posted by: Mark-NC on September 23, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

Kind of reminds me of the time they rolled out the alternate budget with no numbers and before that the "rebranding" and before that Country First...and before that ..and before that. The vaporware of governance.

Posted by: John R on September 23, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

And yet, Americans may well put these nincompoops in power in November.

Aside from the easily manipulated frothing mouth breathers, this would be the result of Americans not paying attention. Which has been all too widespread as of late.

Given that conservatives have largely co-opted the fourth estate, it is incumbent on the people to wade through the sea of lies to find the truth about what is going on in this country. No longer can they watch 30 minutes of news each night - like they used to be able to do with confidence - and be informed about and understanding of what is happening.

We are forced to search out truth. But, people don't have the time that myself and apparently most of the regulars here have to do this. And here we are.

Posted by: terraformer on September 23, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

"It's a reminder that the Republican Party just isn't good at this sort of thing"

You're wrong. they're excellent at this sort of thing. "Pledge to America" is their new brand and they'll do an expert job selling it even though it's, in content, foolish, empty and ridiculous. They'll sell their product, and a whole lot of people will line up and buy "Pledge to America." Rest assured, it's been focus grouped, and test driven beyond all possibility of failure.

Posted by: SaintZak on September 23, 2010 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

It is clear that the Republicans are stuck between a rock and a crazy place. The crazy place is quite obviously where they are now, but here's the rock:

If they actually were to craft a reasonable policy agenda based on actual solutions to actual problems, Obama would likely endorse such ideas whether or not they assume the mantle of small 'c' conservative ideology. Being that any policy Obama endorses is necessarily ultra-liberal, socialist, anti-colonial radical leftism bound to destroy the country, the Repubs would be forced to disavow their entire agenda. PARADOX.

Probably Obama knows this, and is trying to play them until their heads explode from cognitive dissonance.

Posted by: Neil Andrew on September 23, 2010 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Terraformer "No longer can they watch 30 minutes of news each night " Why would they watch the news when there are sitcom reruns on The CW network or Simpson reruns on the local Fox affiliate. You have to do something while you are waiting for Wheel of Fortune to start. The dumbing down of America has exceeded beyond there wildest dreams. When supposedly intelligent people produce such apiece of crap and try to pass it off as policy.. I rest my case.

Posted by: john R on September 23, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Mark-NC has the gist of it dead to rights. Only liberals (and of them, only those who care about policy) will actually read this thing. GOPers and TPers will at best know that the RNC has put out a detailed plan. The media will cover this so poorly that moderates, who will also not read it, will be left with the same impression: The GOP has a plan, Dems don't like it.

Posted by: jhm on September 23, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

"Voters are frustrated by a weak economy, and so Democrats are very likely to lose badly in November"

That is not true. Voters are frustrated by Democrats who do not appear to be trying to fix a bad economy. That is a huge handicap. But if they loose badly, it will because of inept campaigning. The Republicans are out of touch with America and support an agenda most Americans disagree with. It is the Democrats' job to remind the voters of that.

Posted by: david1234 on September 23, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

"'This document proves the GOP is more focused on the acquisition of power than the advocacy of long term sound public policy.'"

I love the consept that this was ever in question.

Posted by: Perspecticus on September 23, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

a solid promise to make most of it worse

The perfect attack slogan and the Dems will blow it.

Posted by: martin on September 23, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

That does it! I'm making my bumper sticker!

"Republicans insist that government is the problem. And they prove it every time they get elected!"

Posted by: chrenson on September 23, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

The media will cover this so poorly that moderates, who will also not read it, will be left with the same impression: The GOP has a plan, Dems don't like it. -jhm

Bingo.

The Republican strategy in a nutshell. Pitch a plan that makes the lives of their base worse, but tell'em it'll really piss off the "libruls". Then wait for the media to do such a half-assed shoddy incomplete job of covering their "plan" (which by the looks of the morning talk shows it already is) that the casual observer is left with only a vague impression of a GOP pledging to improve America.

Posted by: SWENXOF on September 23, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Is that lemon pledge? That would have made my furniture sparkle like new witha fresh lemon scent had we not burned it to keep warm..

Thanks (R)-tards, please take dirt naps, the lot of you!

Posted by: Trollop on September 23, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

This is not the proof that ". . . the GOP is more focused on the acquisition of power than the advocacy of long term sound public policy." That proof was given at the beginning of the Congressional term. Cantor was interviewed on NPR and asked what the Repubs would like to accomplish in the upcoming term. His answer was to become the majority again.

Posted by: Habernathy on September 23, 2010 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Republican motivations are easier to understand if you remember that there are thin layers of quite comfortable rich people atop many dysfunctional countries, so they see no reason to worry about turning the United States into a wreck. They and their friends will be OK. Screw the public - they are merely tools to be manipulated in the pursuit of power.

Liberals are the only people who really care anymore about old-fashioned ideas like "things making sense" and "good governance" and "policy". That is all so, well, 20th Century. The modern GOP wants to turn us into Brazil. See you in the favelas!

Posted by: biggerbox on September 23, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Definition---GOP Contract With America:
Do you see this big gun? We have put this big gun to our head---and if you do not give us everything that we want, we will pull the trigger!

To which I think a good many of us might begin chanting:

SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT!

Posted by: S. Waybright on September 23, 2010 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Im impressed. I dont think Ive met anyone you never know as much about this subject when you do. Youre truly knowledgeable and very intelligent. You wrote something that people could understand and made the subject intriguing for all. Really, great blog youve got here.

Posted by: Rebecca Hill on February 2, 2011 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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