Thursday 16 April 2009

How the teabaggers COULD have beaten Obama yesterday

Here is how the GOP could have attacked yesterday, if they had been thinking sensibly:

What's wrong with exploring ANWR and getting a better picture of how much oil is there? Who cares about a couple of caribou?

How can the Democrats keep coming up with new government programs when the deficit is so gigantic?

How can Democrats advocate cutting the defense budget when the military is already outmoded and in need of serious repair?

When are the Democrats going to get out of bed with the NEA so we can fix our public schools?

What part of "illegal" do you not get, in "illegal immigrant"?

What will Iran do when all the troops get pulled out of Iraq? Iran has been sponsoring terrorists for 25 years, and in spite of the NIE, Bush was right -- they're still enriching uranium while playing stall-ball with the UN. How much time do we give them? Do we wait for the mushroom cloud to appear over New York or Tel Aviv? Why haven't we flattened their nuclear sites already?

Why haven't Democrats done more to criticize a black subculture that belittles education and glorifies crime?

If Democrats think the First Amendment is carved in stone, why don't they think the same about the Second?

Abortion -- if a parent has a right to know when their daughter gets a tattoo or a piercing, why can't they know about an abortion, since they are still responsible for her welfare? And why can't legislatures legislate, provided that Roe isn't violated? And what was the legal basis for Roe anyway? And what's wrong with encouraging adoption?

Gay marriage: so which economic rights do gay couples get -- health coverage, medical decisions, child custody decisions, taxes, pensions...? And who gets to decide what is a legally binding marriage, which confers all those rights, so that people don't abuse the system? And how does all this get paid for?

Death penalty -- if we're supposed to be meting out justice, then a life for a life is perfectly just. And it isn't cruel and unusual -- it's been used for 5000 years of recorded history.

Political Islam -- like it or not, they hate us and they've declared war on us. Time to stop apologizing for being Americans.

When was the last time the Senate Majority Leader was as ineffective as Reid?

These are all issues which the GOP could have used to win back centrists.

The Republicans needed to say that, and they needed to say that yesterday, because time's a-wastin'. Obama is already hard at work neutralizing all those arguments: planning smaller deficits for the next three years, fixing the defense budget, the schools, Iran, Islam, scooting away from any action on gun control (except perhaps on the Mexican border). By the time the Republicans realize that they had a potentially winning formula, Obama will have brewed up the antidote.

To paraphrase Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, this is what they could have argued, if they had had the wits for it. If somebody like Charlie Crist had made the argument I made above, the GOP could have started turning things around. Instead...tea parties. Screeching about non-existent tax increases while the 99.9 percent of the country that is, you know, sane, is out there spending the tax cut Obama just gave them.

It's gotten so bad that I can make the Republican argument better than they can.

Not only did they make a stupid argument, they froze the entire debate in place, by insisting that they are going to go back to the tea-party argument in the Fourth of July. So all summer, the GOP will be embarrassing themselves with more teabaggery, while Obama is passing the health care plan that will ensure his reelection. Then Congress goes home for the summer, the GOP has wasted a whole year, and next year it's midterms.

Where are the great conservative debaters? Conservatism is an intellectually bankrupt philosophy – in fact it is the antithesis of philosophy, a fear and hatred of all new ideas -- but in the past, conservatives have always had great debaters, going back to Marc Antony spinning up human emotions and encouraging people to attack the supporters of democracy, priests inspiring millions of medieval farmers to march to their deaths in the Crusades, John Dickinson opposing the American Revolution, Edmund Burke condemning the French Revolution, Hamilton espousing federalism and warning against pure democracy, Stephen Douglas opposing the abolitionists, Henry Cabot Lodge opposing the more messianic aspects of Wilson’s plan for Europe after WWI, Thatcher railing against the nanny state... Nixon beat Kennedy on points in the 1960 debates, if you ask the radio audience (the TV viewers gave the edge to Kennedy). Even in recent times rightwingers like William F. Buckley and Pat Buchanan have labored with might and main to make the fallacies of the far right plausible with effective debate and pithy writing (I don’t count George Will – a bowtie does not an intellectual make).

The Republicans need a debater, a leader, and fast. The Palin-Limbaugh-Steele axis won't cut it. And they need a plan: I know America has repudiated the GOP's old ideas, but go get new ones, guys! A tea party isn't a policy, it's a tactic, a gimmick.

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