I’ve never fancied myself an expert on political “messaging.” So maybe I am missing something. In the clip Bob Costa posts below Senator Mitch McConnell lays out his expectations (AKA pre-spin) on the State of the Union. In his remarks he makes it clear the GOP isn’t interested in yet more tax hikes absent significant tax reform (nor should it be). Indeed, he notes that Obama has already gotten the tax hikes he campaigned on as a condition for spending cuts.
That’s all well and good. But here’s how he describes the fact that Obama got the tax hikes he wanted (it starts at around 3:21 in the video):
”And remember, due to operation of law the president already got the tax increases he wanted back on January the first. Because the law expired, the president got the tax increases that he wanted. Not with any votes, but he got it by operation of law. So we’re done with that part of the equation. The tax issue is over. If the president really wants a balanced approach now’s the time to show his hand on the spending cuts and reforms he’ll accept. That’s how compromise works.”
I understand that McConnell hates admitting that the GOP agreed to taxes going up. But they did. They didn’t like it. They resisted it. But at the end of the day, the GOP got the best they could and kept the Bush tax rates for most Americans. We all remember that fight.
What I don’t understand is why McConnell is sticking to this talking point about how the GOP never voted for a tax increase (or to be fair, the way he’s sticking to it). It may be true, technically or in every sense. But who cares? The president is going around constantly spinning that the Republicans cannot compromise because they’re crazy, fevered or just plain irrational when it comes to dealing with him. That’s the spin McConnell should be confronting. Right or wrong, the elements of the party that are furious with the GOP for allowing taxes to go up aren’t going to be placated by invocations to passive language like “due to the process of law.” They know what they think about the tax hikes already. Meanwhile, the perception that the GOP is being uncompromising and extreme is killing it in the media and with swing voters.
It seems to me, McConnell should counter that by saying something like, “Look, we compromised. We made a painful concession. We met the president halfway. We were reasonable. And, once again, the president moved the goalposts. As even the New York Times conceded after the President’s second inaugural, Barack Obama is committed liberal who believes our problems can be solved with more and more government and ever higher taxes. Unlike a clear majority of Americans, the president says “we don’t have a spending problem.” He says we won’t work with him, but the truth is the reverse. Even when he gets what he wants, the President just demands more. I know it runs counter to the story Americans are spoon fed everyday, but the President is the one who is unreasonable.”
Or something like that.