Stories I Wish Were From the Onion, But Aren't
In today's Talking Point Extravaganza, the Los Angeles Times does yeoman's work by pushing two conflicting narratives simultaneously.
First, the headline and the first few paragraphs:
White House adjusts strategy on Republicans
The Obama administration aims to put members of the GOP on the spot, forcing them to compromise on issues or be portrayed as obstructionists.
Reporting from Washington - As voters lose patience with political gridlock, the Obama administration is embarking on a strategy aimed at putting Republicans on the spot: Either participate in bipartisan exchanges initiated by the president, or be portrayed as the party of obstruction.
The new approach is part of a series of adjustments the White House is making as it deals with the aftermath of Republican Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts, which cost Democrats their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
Oh my goodness, I'm having palpitations! Is Obama going to suddenly stop speaking softly and carrying a limp noodle? Is he finally going to push that Overton Window to the left by forcing the Republicans to compromise on issues?
Of course not. That would be double-plus-ungood!
In a flurry of recent public appearances, President Obama has sent a message that he is prepared to embrace GOP ideas. But he is also signaling that if Republicans balk at compromise, he'll exact a political price.
Republicans, said White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, "have a role to play in solving problems in this country, or be accountable to the electorate for choosing not to."
Now this, my friends, is genius.
When Obama says he is "willing to embrace Republican ideas" in the context of this piece (i.e., assuming that Obama has Democratic ideas) that means HE is the one compromising, not they. Doesn't it?
Of course it does.
In a recent news conference, Obama said he was open to giving ground in exchange for GOP support for his energy plan, which is foundering in the Senate.
"I'm willing to move off some of the preferences of my party in order to meet them halfway," the president said. "But there's got to be some give from their side as well."
Yes, I'm sure that's going to happen. Aren't you? It is totally to the Republicans' benefit as a Party to cooperate and compromise with the White House.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has settled in on his election-year strategy: Identify issues that unite his caucus but divide the other party, then use them to drive a wedge between the White House and congressional Democrats.
At the top of his list: the administration’s handling of terrorism cases.
Replicating his pattern of relentless, blistering speeches against President Barack Obama’s health care proposal and his plan to shutter the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, McConnell has begun attacking Obama’s plan to try terrorism suspects in civilian courts — and he’s taking aim directly at Attorney General Eric Holder.
“The core question is whether the attorney general of the United States ought to be in charge of the war on terror,” McConnell said. “And the answer is no.”
McConnell hopes moderate Democrats will join Republicans in blocking funding for any civilian trials of terrorism suspects — a would-be GOP victory the party’s candidates could trumpet on the campaign trail throughout this election year.
Hmmm. It doesn't seem like the Republicans are all that interested in giving ground to the White House, does it?
Meanwhile, back at the Times, the Democrats are saying that Scott Brown's election proves they can't govern on their own.
"The Massachusetts election obliterated the argument that we could [govern] all on our own," said the administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. "What we're doing now is actively reaching out and demonstrating our interest in bipartisanship -- but not passively standing by if Republicans are not willing to meet us halfway."
Now THAT is a brilliant piece of political messaging. "We can't govern on our own - we need the Republicans, those sane, wonderful Republicans who have fucked the country up the ass for the past nine years (with our help of course!) - to keep us in check! We don't DESERVE the power you gave us!"
And how will we drive this into the brains of Tweeting, Facebooking America? More speeches to drive home the limp, non-sound-bytable, incomprehensible, wishy-washy message! By Not Obama!
The White House will be relying on a wider network of people to drive home its message. As part of its retooled communications strategy, more Cabinet secretaries will be in front of the cameras to defend the administration's record.
So let's recap. Obama is going to get tough on Republicans by embracing their ideas and begging them for votes and compromises they have already signaled they will not give, while also admitting that the Dems don't deserve to govern on their own. In order to make sure people understand how tough he is, he is going to be even more hands-off than before and let his Cabinet members (most of whom are people no one likes or cares about) do the talking for him. Because hiding from bullies always makes people think you're bad-ass, baby.
We have always been at war with Eastasia.