Republicans Have Opportunity To Change The Debate

This week’s Courier Herald Column:

The cries of “I told you so” are reaching critical mass from the right side of the political spectrum.  Those who have been in opposition to President Obama since his 2008 campaign have been grasping at each and every perceived weakness to justify why he should not be President.   The range of critics have run the gambit from those opposed to his economic policies to those who have questioned the authenticity of his birth certificate, but are now focused on Benghazi, investigations of the DC Press, and the use of the IRS to punish political enemies as the justification that they were right all along.

This line of thinking is a political trap for Republicans, and they should avoid it.

The deliberate misrepresentation that a person who put a video on YouTube was responsible for the killing of four Americans in Libya and how that came to be does matter, despite the assertion of the former Secretary of State.  The fact that the Attorney General appears to have authorized a warrant claiming a Fox News White House reporter was engaging in criminal activity as he was engaging routine and customary sources – i.e., doing his job – is a chilling restraint on the free press.  And the use of the IRS to punish enemies crosses a line that even Democratic allies of the President are reluctant to defend.

In short, the President has some potential “real” issues to deal with in order to defend the reputation of his administration.  And he, as the Commander In Chief, should be providing a full and unfettered accounting.  Getting to the bottom of what actually happened, who knew, and when they knew should be the first start.

Instead, too many of the perpetual critics have jumped ahead – believing their visceral opposition has now been publicly justified – and are calling for resignation and/or impeachment.  This overreach is how Republicans will likely end up snatching a political defeat from the jaws of potential victory.

The messaging should not be that every crank with a conspiracy theory from the past six years was really correct.  Most were not.  It should also not be about fast tracking an investigation to move swiftly to the punishment phase without clearly establishing guilt.  That is not how our legal system works, and should not be how our political system works.

Instead, Republicans at this stage should be focused more on explaining the virtues of small government in reaction to these scandals derived directly from a government that is too big.  Regardless which of the three are being defended, the administration seems to indicate that the government is too large to be managed by any individual, including the President.

When the President and his administration asserts that numerous rogue bureaucrats are running amok in an uncoordinated fashion to punish political enemies and conduct secret investigations of political opponents, then they are admitting – even demonstrating – that the federal government has grown too large, with too many bureaucrats endowed with unchecked power.  In short, Democrats are conceding Republican points on the size and scope of governance.

While the formal investigations move to uncover the exact details and begin our system of due process, the political response should not be about proclaiming guilt, but rather should be using the opportunity to recommend solutions to shrink the size and scope of influence that Washington has on our everyday lives.

This administration is saying it can’t be responsible for the actions of mid-level bureaucrats who abuse the system and their power.  Higher level ones, like Lois Lerner, continue to receive their salary while on leave despite refusing to answer questions before Congress to explain her conduct as a servant of the people.  If there was ever an opportunity for Republicans to make the case against big government, this is it.

Republicans need not spend their time calling for impeachment, resignation, or personal vindication for all past claims made against this President.  Instead, to reach those middle of the road voters who frankly have tuned Republicans out, the public discussion at this stage should be to point out the problems with large scale abuses of power.

The assumptions behind most recent political debate have been “my side is good and can handle power. Your side is evil and should not have it.”  The current scandals give Republicans a solid chance to change the debate.  It should no longer about who has the power of government, but should government have this much power over us at all?


  1. NoTeabagging says:

    One error lies in the assumption that the President’s job description gives him/her power to oversee/micromanage/”be responsible for” every department and employee of the federal government. Our current two party political system modus operandi is to sell the biggest lie to the most people.

    • Doug Grammer says:

      “One error lies in the assumption that the President’s job description gives him/her power to oversee/micromanage/”be responsible for” every department and employee of the federal government.”

      The way I see it, he’s over the executive branch, so that’s about 1/3 or the government…including but not limited to the IRS, the military, gitmo, the treasury, the department of justice, and the state department.

      • Rick Day says:

        Of those department listed, arrange them in order of priority for the POTUS to personally oversee. Where does the IRS fall now in that list? Now you understand the point of not blaming the POTUS in this case.

        Or not.

        • Doug Grammer says:

          I seem to recall something called a cabinet. It had something to do with department heads reporting to and working for someone. There was also a phrase. “The buck stops here.”

  2. Jackster says:

    I don’t mean this to be a threadjack, Charlie, I really don’t.

    Why can’t the republican party make a connection and a case between the old adage “Simplifying the tax code” and a reduction of the things the tax code controls? I’m willing to concede it’s because that would put most K streeters out of business, but outside of that lobby, why is that not a connection being driven home?

    That was one of the biggest things I liked about the fairtax idea – that there were no more deductions and therefore, no gaming the tax code.

    • Scott65 says:

      Because most people hear “simplifying the tax code” and believe it to mean cutting corporate taxes and lowing rates for the wealthiest tax payers and sticking those in the middle with the bill or reduced services…and they have good enough reason to believe it looking at Ryan’s past budgets. The poor/middle class pay vastly more of a percentage of their income in sales tax…thats a big drawback of the “fair tax”.

      • Jackster says:

        So to my point, why can’t that mean stop taxing (regulating througuh taxation) a wide scope of things. The cost / tax burden shift would be where republicans would need to not push for reduced services, and to persue tax increases in other areas to offset.

      • mpierce says:

        The poor/middle class pay vastly more of a percentage of their income in sales tax…thats a big drawback of the “fair tax”.

        Not really, the prebate compensates for that. Also used goods, which the poor/middle class are more likely to purchase, are not taxed.

    • Three Jack says:

      Jackster, because GOP lawmakers and their personal bureaucrats rely on the tax code just as much as the other party in order to grant favors, social engineer and enhance their own power.

      Charlie is spot on correct, if not now, when will the GOP finally get serious about tax reform? Stop the BS attacks on Obama and get on with putting forth a positive agenda built on the basic principles for which they were elected. The main reason we have this president is due to the same GOP not doing what we elected them to do previously.

      As W. would say, “fool me once…..shame….shame on you, fool me, you can’t get fooled again”.

    • David C says:

      Eh. The last time they did this they wrapped it around a bargain of “Take out all the credits and lower the rates.” That meant good credits and the like got dumped out with the corporate loopholes and other kinds of handouts. Surprise surprise: In years later the loopholes returned (but less good credits for the little guy) but the rates stayed low and the deficit went up. Tax credits in the like can be a good way to incentivize behavior so the market can react to it instead of relying on top down dictates and controls. So much “tax reform” is throwing out the baby with the bathwater, with the added problem that the bathwater returns pretty quick, and gets nastier as time goes on.

  3. Scott65 says:

    Past performance proves future actions…republicans will over reach…they always do. The other reason they wont let it go…they really dont have much else to talk about right now in DC thats gonna resonate with most people.

    • pettifogger says:

      You may be right. Republicans tire the public out through overpursuit. Nothing will keep the public’s interest for too long, so the GOP would be wise to measure how they handle these scandals. Doesn’t mean they can’t go after the same results, but scandals generally only have so much life, regardless of their depth. They need to pace themselves.

      Democrats do the same with perceived mandates. Every electoral win is treated as a changing of the guard and the belief that the US is now a “progressive” state. Polls showing Americans favor background checks are treated as though Americans care about gun control; totally ignoring that what Americans respond to on the telephone may have little to do whether they’ll call their congressman on the same issue. Moreover, liberal press furthers that mistake which is ultimately unhelpful because it leads to more distance between the perceived and the real (see recent articles celebrating the gun control uprising – a totally fictional occurrence).

  4. xdog says:

    “claiming a Fox News White House reporter was engaging in criminal activity…”
    Didn’t he expose an covert intelligence source? Maybe not explicitly but in the sense of making NK aware they had an in-country leak. That’s not against the law but I can understand why intelligence people would be outraged. Responsible reportage could have avoided the detail of the inside source.

    To your larger point about the proper goper response to over-reach by admin officials, I expect congressional heads and media people will continue to stand by and wring their hands in public about that bad bad Obama as long as they can keep their distance from the fringe. iow, handle impeachment talk just as they handled birther talk.

  5. saltycracker says:

    A true fair tax reform (flat %, no exceptions, exemptions, credits or rebates) would not necessarily result in lower revenues but should result in a smaller bureaucracy. A part of the revenue improvement would be due to efficient oversight & enforcement as well as a sense of public fairness.

    But absent visionary politicians to pull it off, the public will continue to believe local politicians will deliver a bigger piece of the pie to them than what their neighbor gets.

    The elected may name some action “tax reform” but they will not abandon their spoils system.
    And the public will, unfortunately, continue to mob up in special interest/influence groups.

  6. seenbetrdayz says:

    Impeachment wouldn’t be likely to occur anyway. Honor among thieves and all that.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      I recall the calls for impeachment over the initial intervention in Libya a while back.

      They realized there was a problem. The GOP had done the same thing just one administration prior. How do you get a bunch of criminals to impeach a bunch of criminals and have anyone take the proceedings seriously?

    • Harry says:

      “The left likes to say, ‘Watergate was worse!’ Watergate was bad—don’t get me wrong. But it was elites using the machinery of government to spy on elites. . . . It’s something quite different when elites use the machinery of government against ordinary people. It’s a whole different ball game.” – Peggy Noonan

      • John Konop says:


        Part of the problem GOP has is they are controlled by people living in the past….using President Reagan, Watergate, culture war, socialist …… in debate to people under 40 is meaningless…….the average person wants to known about jobs, education, healthcare……the party wants to debate ideology not real issues people face……and more and more are facing the midde class squeeze……

        It is not that the Democrats are offering anything much better…..that are just alienating less people……calling infastructure, healthcare, schools……socialism is not a winning message. The average voting couple not retired has both parents working……and even though the current system has issues the GOP alternative looks worse…… give a couple a voucher for healthcare and schools making 60k and tell them to pay up for the rest……, how is this better for their family? You tell the the same couple that the only alternative for the long drive time to work is the private sector? The GOP calls parents seeking IVF murders? The GOP tells Latinos and Asians we are in a culture war? The GOP needs to focus on real solutions…..or they will become a regional party……the irony is the party needs a real Reagan conservative not the make believe one……..

  7. saltycracker says:

    Revise the tax code ?
    Fortune 500 May 20
    Cover headline: “Apples unresolved $100 Billion cash problem”
    Apple has $145 in cash
    That exceeds the market cap of 482 companies in the 500.
    71% or $102 billion is “trapped” (Fortunes words ) overseas.

  8. saltycracker says:

    Fortune June 10
    Front page story;Amazons war on taxes
    The fight on sales taxes is something.
    Republicans are clever:
    Texas: communities get a piece of the sales tax from all products shipped from Amazons warehouse. Community politicians are so happy to get a warehouse that they are rebating up to 85% back to Amazon to get the jobs !
    Gotta love it !

    • Harry says:

      I was gonna say, in order to retain power they need the support of these big global corps and monopolies. Da cheese cuts both ways.

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