Memo to every Republican politician who will become a part of the 114th U.S. Congress: If you believe there is a single one of President Obama’s “new” proposals (described in his “I Hear You” speech today) that does not require a warning footnote, then I would suggest that you still do not understand the man. The footnote should read: “I am prepared to make a deal regarding any major issue, be it Keystone XL, immigration, tax reform, whatever, provided you do it my way, burdened with such limitations, financial payoffs, trade-offs, etc., etc., as I and I alone decide that I require.”
Addendum to the memo: Forget about all the advice you are getting from the Left, about how the real mandate of this election is that the public wants Congress to just do something, do anything, and break up the alleged gridlock. The Left wants you to think of their policies as being one pole, and to think that the opposite pole is what used to be thought of in the U.S. as centrist, meaning that the compromise they seek is for the country to be half-left on every issue (or fully left on half of the issues). For them, the new center is halfway left of the old center. The Right is considered intransigent when it declines to move to the left of the old center. It all depends on how you set the stage, how you make the rules. The President is trying to dictate the rules before he begins to play the last 2 years of this game.
Advice to the Republicans: The only compromise the Left wants is stuff that looks good and seems collegial but is doomed to fail. Do not fall for it, do not adopt any legislation, do not accept any Democratic counter-offer or compromise, unless the final version is something that is likely to create substantial improvements in the economy or national security, something sufficiently undiluted to have a chance of working. Otherwise, why bother? Winning Miss Congeniality is not going to win the Presidency in 2016. Why be identified with stuff that is NOT likely to yield major, high-profile improvements? Why pander on social issues that will affect neither growth nor security during the next 2 years? Why adopt stuff that works well enough for the Dems to pretend to be anti-gridlock but not well enough to give the Republicans an argument for the election of a Republican President in 2016?
You want to give the voters a party-identifier other than simply being the anti-Obama party, give them some meat. Not something that supports the lefty meme (which is actually a trope, if you are into Newspeak) that Republicans are knuckle-dragging clingers to religion and guns, but something that is pure Hayek/Friedman, U. of Chicago Economics certified, guarantied- to-work, easy-to-understand, economics. Not minimum-wage economics, but big ticket stuff, like meaningful tax reform (e.g., the 1986 Tax Reform Act) that trashes Crony Capitalist favoritism and virtually guaranties a spurt in economic growth. Not squeezing phantom savings out of defense contractors, but building up our troop levels and naval fleet and our ability to handle multiple engagements concurrently. Not chasing down (or talking down) the people formerly known as illegal aliens, but proving to a skeptical nation that we are actually defending our borders from bad guys and bad diseases, so as to lay the foundation for eventual reform on other immigration issues. OK’ing the XL Pipeline and giving the Go signal on domestic energy production in general.
If the Republicans had a leader with the Presidential timber and other qualifications to lead the party in this agenda and get credit for it, great. But without a charismatic leader (can Tom Cotton or Ben Sasse get there in time?), why bother? Best to just dig in, collectively, and give your eventual nominee something on which to run. Recognize that showing you can compromise and get laws passed, playing Mr. or Ms. Nice Guy, is not going to sustain the GOP momentum into 2016. And by the way, be prepared for the President to challenge you on this strategy by both by-passing you and vilifying you, with a hardball combination of Executive Orders and a massive PR campaign. The most confrontational, dangerous phase may be just beginning – are you ready?