The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Why Can’t We Create Our Own Narratives?


Also in today’s Morning Jolt . . .

Stealing From the Obama-Axelrod Narrative Management Playbook

So, a few quick thoughts on the “reinvention of the GOP” topic . . .

One of the things the Democrats do well is identify something that a wide swath of people think is a problem — some nut job shot up a kindergarten class! — and then quickly propose some legislation to “do something about it.” Now, we’re left to point out that the legislation in question won’t really solve the problem it’s supposed to, and it will create its own problems, but by that point we’re following a familiar media playbook; they’re the ones who care and who are trying to DO SOMETHING and we’re the carping obstructionists who get all wrapped up in the details.

The upside of our annoying focus on details and pesky wariness about unforeseen consequences is that we’re much less likely to end up passing legislation that accidentally bans police officers from carrying guns with more than seven rounds, as Democrats in New York recently did.

So, why can’t we find something broadly recognized as a problem and offer our own this-must-pass-immediately-or-you-don’t-care-about-the-problem ultimatum?

Here’s one of the first examples that comes to mind: What is the single least popular bit of federal spending? Whatever it is, introduce and vote on a bill to zero it out immediately.

Alternatively, what is the federal agency with the single worst rate of waste and inefficiency? Introduce and pass a bill to cut its budget in half. Turn those into crusades, hold press conferences, get the lawmakers out on the Sunday shows to invoke it as a “basic first step to getting our fiscal house in order”, and so on. It doesn’t matter if the actual dollar amount involved is minuscule in comparison to the debt and this year’s deficit; the point is to A) get Americans used to the idea that government spending can be cut, B) persuade Americans that cracking down on wasteful spending is worthwhile, and C) test the Democrats to see if they’re dumb enough to go out and defend the worst offenders.

The worst-case scenario is that the Democrats go along with it, like when they quickly capitulated over ACORN funding. But in that case, we’ve managed to actually cut a little government waste — not such a bad outcome.

Let the Democrats dismiss this maneuver as a stunt; what exactly would we call Dianne Feinstein displaying 10 assault rifles during her press conference on the assault-weapons ban?

My nomination? All of the U.S. Department of Agriculture grants to various industries to promote American products. Looking at examples like this one . . .

Leo Ray, owner of Fish Processors of Idaho, learned Friday that his business won a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote his caviar nationwide. Ray received a Value-Added Producer Grant, designed to help farmers advertise new products and build economies in rural communities.

Various industries can promote their own darn products; there’s no reason for U.S. taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Looking through Tom Coburn’s catalogue of wasteful spending . . . Okay, Democrats, we will raise taxes. Let’s declare that professional sports leagues do not qualify as “nonprofits.” That’s $91 million in new tax revenue right there.

Could you imagine if GOP lawmakers in Congress suddenly started pounding the table and insisting that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell* and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman pay their fair share? You would see the GOP suddenly the hero of the world of sports talk radio, that’s for sure.

Keep in mind, the Obama agenda for the coming year is to bring up issue after issue that either divides Republicans or leaves them defending an unpopular position: on all the spending fights, he’s going to paint the opposition as misers who want to toss old people into the cold and cut off help for families with disabled children. On climate change, we’re flat-earth types who defend polluters and don’t want to stop natural disasters. On immigration, we’ll be painted as xenophobic racists who fly into paranoid rages when Mexican restaurants don’t immediately offer us the mild salsa with our chips. On every issue, the theme is the same: “We all agree that X is a problem [even though not all of us really do], and we have a solution, and the GOP is being obstructionist.”

Wouldn’t it be nice to interrupt this parade of Axelrod focus-group-tested wedge issues with some issues of our own? Kurt Schlichter had the right approach:

Obama is now talking about taxing the successful even more by eliminating deductions. Hand him another big goose egg. He got his tax increases — you need to be out of the revenue increase business. How about the House pass a payroll tax cut, paid for by slashing corporate welfare to Obama’s Hollywood buddies and his green energy scam cronies?

Spending cuts? Obama doesn’t get a say. Sequestration is going to happen unless the GOP agrees to change it. That’s a $1.2 trillion cut. Let it happen, and let Secretary Hagel deal with the defense cuts. Obama loses again unless you save him.

And guns — talk about a golden opportunity to defeat Obama while also helping set the stage for a Democrat wipe-out in 2014! Obama and his progressive pals are giddy with the idea that Newtown will let them jam through a whole slew of Second Amendment-trashing measures before everyone starts thinking again. If Obama’s actually foolish enough to proceed — and I am not sure he is — he’s setting himself up for a huge loss.

GOP, remember Napoleon’s admonition to never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. Let Obama try and force the red state Democrat senators to come out against guns. Let the Democrats tear themselves up while we watch and gobble popcorn.

UPDATE: In the original version, I stepped into the time machine and referred to “NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.” Hey, be glad I didn’t say “Pete Rozelle”!

Tags: Barack Obama , David Axelrod , Government


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