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January 18, 2013 9:43 AM Retreat!

By Ed Kilgore

The big topic of the morning seems to be the reports beginning to leak out of Williamsburg, Virginia from the House GOP’s three-day “retreat.” With the exception of a few availabilities offered to a strictly sequestered press corps, this is very much a closed event, but obviously various participants want to make sure whatever happens is either well-known or thoroughly misunderstood.

I don’t know if any of you have been to one of these these high-level-elected-official meetings, but they are all about the same, depending on how substantive the particular sponsors want things to feel and look (apparently the poor weather at this Williamsburg event is keeping the Members indoors and away from the golf links and tennis courts and tourist attractions). I used to staff governors’ conferences at least twice a year, and it was always a game to see how boring we could make it all sound so that no one would get the impression the workaholic chief executives were having fun. So in Williamsburg as in other such events, the pols will sit around in their unused golf clothes, alternatively enjoying the “frank,” unreported conversation and being reminded every word said will eventually be repeated by someone next week over lunch.

For the non-elected presenters at such events, the game is to simultaneously convey a sense of solidarity with the solons—you know, they’re all on the same team, even though some of them are there because hundreds of thousands of people voted for them while others are just relatively high on the greasy pole of Beltway gabbing—and flatter them, courtier-like, with the awe-inspiring nature of the challenges they face and the examples of such “peers” as Lincoln, Jesus Christ and Gandhi.

The mood of the Williamsburg retreat is probably best indicated by the fact the Members have already had sessions where Kellyanne Conway told them to stop talking about rape, and Domino’s Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle talked about “selling a damaged brand to a modern audience.”

Unless the retreat produces some sort of real consensus for a strategy on dealing with the debt limit, or someone gets drunk and falls into the James River, those could wind up being the highlights when the whole deal is over. I am genuinely glad I’m not one of those “real journalists” being watched by security guards at this event, and trying to coax a compelling story line from disinformation and pablum.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • c u n d gulag on January 18, 2013 9:59 AM:

    Ah yes, 'sensitivity training' for Republicans.

    Nothing says "Love of minorities," more than holding your event at a former PLANTATION!

    And, it's refreshing to hear that Republican politicians were told to treat the word 'rape," like a 4-letter word, instead of a date gone bad.

    But my favorite is the Pizza Hut guy.
    Sales were down, because their pizza's sucked. So, from what I can gather, he had the recipe changed, and decided to become more customer friendly, and deliver the pies withing 30 minutes, instead of, "Yeah, it'll get there when it gets there."

    But, what will the Republicans learn from that?
    They think their recipe is just fine, and all they need is better advertising, a better box, and a good messenger - all to deliver the same crappy pie that "customers" are showing that they like less and less.
    Their one signature dish, "Pizza With Extra-anthrax," will now be sold as pizza with bovine products - some of which might or might not be cheese or milk byproducts.

    As usual, to answer the question, "Is our Republican learning?", in short, it's "NO!!!"

  • c u n d gulag on January 18, 2013 10:00 AM:

    Oh, and never mind "Retreat!", wake me when they finally 'Surrender!'

  • stevio on January 18, 2013 10:30 AM:

    "Retreat" means that at some point they "Advanced".

    In this case it doesn't apply. Regress is a better way to illustrate Repug meanderings.

    Nauseating...

  • JohnH on January 18, 2013 10:42 AM:

    The mood of the Williamsburg retreat is probably best indicated by the fact the Members have already had sessions where Kellyanne Conway told them to stop talking about rape

    It's telling, and more than a little disgusting, that this miserable collection of mountebanks, grifters, chauvinists and evolutionary throwbacks have to be told to stop making offensive comments about rape, not out of simple human decency but because it might negatively impact their polling numbers. Where do they grow these people? There isn't enough honor among the lot of them to fill a molecule.

  • HMDK on January 18, 2013 11:00 AM:

    "There isn't enough honor among the lot of them to fill a molecule."
    I don't know if beauty is truth or truth is beauty...
    but I know that this is both.

  • low-tech cyclist on January 18, 2013 11:19 AM:

    They're sequestering the press corps? Already?!

    I thought the sequester didn't take effect until the end of February!

    And I had no idea it applied to the press corps in addition to the pointy-headed bureaucrats.

    You learn something new every day. ;-)

  • R on January 18, 2013 11:31 AM:

    Great final sentence, Ed. You rock.

  • Peter C on January 18, 2013 11:41 AM:

    So, when's our retreat? When is our strategy session? When do we coordinate our tactics?

    Our leaders aren't working hard enough. This is why we always have 'two steps forward, two steps back'.

  • caphilldcne on January 18, 2013 11:55 AM:

    Peter - the Democratic retreat is Feb. 6-8 after the inauguration. It's pretty much a new Congress ritual to do these retreats. Here's the House calendar for you: http://www.democraticwhip.gov/floor-resources/legislative-calendar

  • Robert on January 18, 2013 12:11 PM:

    Journalists? Where? There are some left? I thought the corporate clueless killed them all off...

  • Peter C on January 18, 2013 12:36 PM:

    Thanks @caphildnce. I'll try and be patient.

  • Josef K on January 18, 2013 1:40 PM:

    Unless the retreat produces some sort of real consensus for a strategy on dealing with the debt limit, or someone gets drunk and falls into the James River...

    Oh, please don't tease.

    As for "real consensus", I thought the GOP had already concluded on a strategy: just say no to everything.

  • MuddyLee on January 18, 2013 1:43 PM:

    Kellyanne Conway? Was Ann Coulter too busy shilling for the NRA and GOA? If I was a member of Congress being forced to listen to Conway telling me not to talk about rape (how dumb do they think these guys are?), I would be an angry old white male looking for a free drink on a Friday....wait a minute...

  • Rick B on January 18, 2013 1:51 PM:

    @cund - The Republicans have a self-centered exploitative ideological collection of crap that they can only get large numbers of voters to support by lying to them or tricking them. Then the majority of conservative politicians are self-serving crooks like "Duke" Cunningham or religious crazies like Michele Bachman anyway. (Texas' Louie Gohmert combines the two categories. So do the Randian crazies when you realize that Libertarianism is another irrational religion.)

    When you are selling a destructive product using despicable people to begin with and can only succeed by fooling your customers, and the process stops working, obviously the problem is the process of tricking the customers has to be revised. The alternative is to replace the despicable people, and they are the ones at the conference making the decision regarding what to do.