During an appearance in Las Vegas to promote the second season of her show “Amazing America” on the Sportsman Channel, former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin used the big sports story of the day to profess herself less than amazed by the Republican leadership.
“I’m not going to talk politics except to say the GOP had better go on offense,” she told The Blaze. “Man, they are not going to win any game on defense. Being in the majority there in D.C., we’re blowing it if we just bend our back… That GOP leadership, that Establishment, they’ve got to get their stuff together. I love what they believe in, I believe in it too. But they’ve got to get tough, man. You know what? It’s not just the New England Patriots who are dealing with deflated balls right now.”
That seems to have been the end of her political remarks to The Blaze – which is fine, because she was there to talk about her TV show, and at any rate it’s hard to beat that “deflated balls” crack as a mike-drop conclusion. Given the timing, it’s hard to say if she had the craven Republican retreat from the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in mind, but it’s tough to beat as an example of the political testosterone failure she’s talking about.
It was such a debacle that it doesn’t even pass muster as an act of sheer political cynicism, because at least those acts leave the cynical bastards in a better overall political position. The GOP leadership traded a massive loss of energy and support from their own base – including Republicans who don’t care all that much about the abortion issue but view this retreat as a troubling sign that their party leaders won’t try for a touchdown even when it’s first and goal – for approximately nothing in the way of respect from independents, moderate Democrats, or the media elite that Republican leaders fear above nearly all other things. They threw their deflated football backwards, then tackled themselves for a safety.
The importance of staying on offense is illustrated by the lost opportunity here. Protection for unborn children in the later stages of pregnancy is an issue with huge popular support across every demographic (except, of course, abortion profiteers, radical feminist ideologues, and the media types who carry their sedan chairs). We’re talking about a bill with 60% support from the general public, 59% from women, and 57% from young people – and that’s with very little organized promotion from Republicans, and none from the media. There are issues where the media cheerfully carries the Democrats’ water, not just in punditry but with politically-charged popular entertainment, that can’t get to 60%.
Of course President Obama would have vetoed it… and that’s exactly what the Republican Party should have wanted, with all of its united heart. That’s how you play offense. There’s nothing better than forcing Obama to defend an extremist, out-of-step position with his veto pen, at the behest of well-connected special interests with deep pockets. That’s the kind of bloody nose a lame-duck President with shaky poll numbers can’t easily get back up from. It should have been followed up with one legislative haymaker after another, until even Obama’s most dedicated media sycophants spent their Sunday mornings muttering uncomfortably about veto-happy President Gridlock.
This is the strategy Republican leaders promised to follow when they made their big pitch for unseating Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader – a project considered quite the long shot when the 2014 election season began. Remember how all the Smart People were dispensing Conventional Wisdom about how the odds of Republicans taking the Senate were like the odds of hitting a slot-machine jackpot? The Republicans made an eminently sensible case that Democrat control of the Senate enabled Reid to use all sorts of parliamentary tricks to bury good House bills without Obama getting directly involved, leading to the absurd spectacle of the media portraying Republicans as obstructionists. “Get Reid out of that seat, and we can really go on offense!” cried the herd of pachyderms thundering toward November 2014, and America took them up on it.
Look what we’re getting instead: craven defensiveness on every important issue, right down to the old minority-party shell game about how today is never the right time to fight, but the middle of next year should be better. Obama’s the one on offense, shamelessly and often illegally. You can’t say he isn’t dedicated to the strategy his political team came up with after they were finished hyperventilating over the beating they took in November. As we saw at the State of the Union address, Obama won’t even mention the midterm elections took place. Besides treating the 2014 political season like a fever dream his subjects have snapped out of, the President spent the rest of SOTU relentlessly on offense – the entire presentation was basically a wish list of crazy, expensive giveaway programs, intended to make Republicans look bad for defensively opposing them.
Palin is absolutely correct about the need to play on offense, especially for the opposition party. That’s still what the GOP is, no matter what becomes of the President’s poll numbers, or how many seats they pick up in a wave election – you either have the White House, or you don’t. The notion of playing small-ball defense to clear the field for a 2016 presidential candidate is lunacy. It seems to be received political wisdom among Beltway Republicans, but it doesn’t work – it’s never worked. The best way to run for President is not just to talk about the good ideas your Party stands for, but to point at all the times they’ve tried to put those ideas into practice, only to be thwarted by obstructionists.
Democrats always try to frame elections that way; they instinctively understand it’s the best ground to fight from. That’s one reason they don’t savage their own front-line fighters, even when the outcome of their crusades is less than optimal – they understand how that puts the whole party on defense. Republicans, on the other hand, seem eager to scourge and discredit their own champions in a never-ending intra-party bloodbath, nourishing a foolish but astoundingly persistent faith that the milquetoast moderate establishment types can win the approval of the media establishment by “purging” their own party of real leadership. You can’t play offense if you send all your best offensive players to the showers. Let’s hope the Republican Party figures that out before they try taking the 2016 field with a deflated-ball squad that isn’t convinced it has any business in the Democrat end zone.