Its been almost three whole days since the tidal wave hit, one that, regardless of what the
White House spin may claim, was a slap down of the last two years. In the first mad rush of success, I will admit that my head was swimming with all of the ramifications of Tuesday – committee chairs, staff re-alignments, K street donor orientation, etc. Those observations are brewing for another day.
Of more immediate interest has been the statements of the leadership class, trying to define their new role with respect to what happened, while strengthening their own interests’ hand. It is obvious, after listening to them all, that most of them still don’t get “it.” Here, is my take on each – and I’ll conclude with the one guy who seems to get it, remarkably.
President Obama. Man, he REALLY doesn’t get it. His pre-India flight into hiding (ok, maybe that is too strong, but is there a better time to be unavailable?) Press Conference was a weak, weak showing. For example, he hit us with the amazing theory that, “had unemployment been 5%” the Democrats would have won. Really?
You see, that is the problem. The President is blaming the economy for his electoral disaster – as he should. What he fails to grasp is that the voters now view his policies as the source of the economy’s problems. Hey, no one told you to ram the stimulus through on a promise that unemployment would stay below 8% if you did.
From forcing healthcare (where 68% want something changed, 48% want an outright repeal according to exits), to automaker bailouts to extending unemployment benefits 99 weeks, each and every time this President proposes a solution it has a higher price tag next to it. Business see that, and they already fear tremendously the unknown costs looming with Obamacare, so they aren’t hiring people fast enough (at the October rate of 149,000 jobs we will be back to 2007 levels of employment in about 5 years – if the population stays stagnant). The message from independents – and women! – was we hate spending and get us jobs.
A quick purview of the election results shows a large swath of red with fringes of blue state’s clinging to the coasts. The vast majority of the country rejected increased spending Tuesday and the President’s direction. The President – masking his desires as “investments” – did nothing Wednesday but assert that we need to spend more money to survive.
He just doesn’t get it. And if he does succeed in ramming through another extension of unemployment benefits – to a staggering 120 weeks from an already unfathomable 99 – in a lame-duck session, he will confirm yet again that he is not interested in the will of the VAST majority.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Look, no one is naive Mitch. We all know that a major strategic aim of the GOP the next two years is to ensure the man is given one term. But that goal – the consolidation of GOP power – is personal. And if you think the people gave the GOP the house and huge gains in the senate and across the board to ensure future GOP rule, you just don’t get it.
Listen to the most junior Senator we have, Mr. Rubio: this is a second chance to govern. The message of the people was not “we love the GOP:” It was we hate you both, but you guys are marginally more fiscally responsible.
If McConnell wields his new clout solely for partisan gain all he will do is ensure that Obama gets re-elected. The GOP and the Dems need the middle in two years. The middle has NOTHING vested in the GOP and wants progress (not to be misconstrued with progressivism, which died in Wisconsin Tuesday).
What they decidedly do not want is partisanship to serve a solely partisan end. And the first side to realize that wins the next cycle. Mitch, so far, does not get it.
Majority Leader Reid. Now you man up? Its funny how Harry went from hanging on with both hands to suddenly swaggering. He is still majority leader (for now, but one has to think that there is some movement in that caucus to go another way), and as a US Senator, he is safe for 6 years and can once again ignore his constituents.
Which is what his first moves have done. After trying to seem moderate, Harry is back tacking left, issuing ultimatums, and generally acting like his usual bully self. He should be wary – this was, amazingly, a tough senate cycle for the GOP, respectively, and they cleaned up. 2012 already shows the possibility of upwards of 8-10 pickups (2006 was the first wave of Dems, so they have more seats up) with few vulnerable GOP seats. Harry may be in the senate for 6 years, but unless he gets it soon and starts compromising to the middle he will be a rank and file minority member.
Former/Still/Maybe Minority leader Pelosi. Is she staying? Is she going? Does anyone care? The statements that the former Speaker keep making are unclear at best. But her statements that “we did the right thing” and “I have no regrets” demonstrate that she also just does not get it. Fiscal sanity is what the people want. If you don’t see excessive spending as an issue, and if you believe that expanded unemployment benefits stimulate the economy; if you are certain that its still just Bush’s economy dragging your dream down – well, you just don’t get it, and if Steny has any backbone you won’t have any say setting the agenda going forward.
And now, the surprise…John Boehner. I will not call him speaker elect as some have because it is simply not yet true. But figure he may be. I was not a fan of this several weeks ago or even Wednesday at 3AM. I wanted a Speaker Cantor, Majority leader Ryan. But I have to give John credit. He was somewhat humble. He said all the things the election should have told anyone: the GOP has been given a second chance, but it has to govern differently than the outgoing Dems – and the GOP from 2000-2006.
Boehner seems to have gotten this message. I worry about anyone who was in leadership before simply because there is a natural tendency to want to “go back” to how “we do things.” But reading the election tea leaves correctly does not point in that direction. It points to fiscal sanity, modest promises, and humble governance. That is what the decisive segment of the electorate want. Boehner, in his speeches so far, seems to get it.
Time will tell how all of these leaders adapt to the tectonic shifts under their feet. And, as always, it will be the best reality show in town.
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