Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Strategy for the Party of "No"

William Kristol offers the clearest strategy yet for the Party of "No."
...the GOP might focus on taking on the Obama administration, whose policies are surprisingly vulnerable to political and substantive attack. Battling Barack Obama is an enterprise that offers better grounds for Republican hope than indulging in spasms of introspection or bouts of petty recrimination.

No, the payoff from a policy confrontation with Obama won't be immediate. The economy appears to be set for a short-term uptick. Obama remains popular. Many of his proposals look superficially attractive. But we haven't yet had a thorough airing of their implications, to say nothing of their real-world consequences if they are enacted.

So one should assume Obama will stay strong through the summer and perhaps even the fall. But 2009-10 could be the winter of Obama's discontent. Republicans should be making the case against Obama's policies now so that citizens know whom to blame next year.
He goes on to list five planks of the "Anti-Obama" agenda: debt, defense, diplomacy, Guantanamo Bay and health care. Kristol correctly points out that these are all vulnerabilities. If the President fails, he will undoubtedly draw the ire of voters.

Missing, however, from Kristol's analysis is any hint of a positive agenda to fix these problems. With respect to the debt, Republicans contributed to that. What is their current fiscal recommendation? Additional tax cuts for the wealth that would only add to the debt.

Defense policy? Republican policy gave us the ill-advised war in Iraq, the mis-managed war in Afghanistan, and the neglected insurgency in Pakistan. Building additional F-22s isn't going to solve those problems.

Diplomacy? We're well acquainted with the all-bluster, go-it-alone, no-results approach of the Bush years. Shouting at other nations feels good but accomplishes nothing.

Guantanamo Bay? Here the Republicans don't even make a pretense of a solution. Keeping the facility open is a "head in the sand" approach that ignores problems that eventually have to be addressed, including the final disposition of the terrorists there and the release and repatriation of the non-terrorist detainees.

Health care? The primary Republican health care accomplishment from the last eight years was a bloated and inefficient prescription add-on for Medicare. Insurance companies got massive corporate welfare, while the taxpayers got the bill and the looming entitlement crisis got worse. The Republicans remaining recommendation is once again tax cuts.

In a nutshell, Kristol is recommending opposition from the opposition party. With nothing else to offer, it's a strategy for remaining in that position.