Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My advice to the Republicans

Following the example set by Frank Luntz at the Huffinton Post, let me offer some well intended advice for my friends on the other side of the great American divide. Not following the example set by Luntz, I will actually try to make my advice constructive rather than condescending and self serving to my political point of view.

My first and most important piece of advice is given in complete honesty. It is not meant as a personal affront to Republicans. I know what I'm about to suggest will raise their hackles, but the truth of the matter is that I believe if they do this, their chances at redemption in the eyes of the public would be greatly enhanced. So now that I have you all primed for this blockbuster here it is... Put a muzzle on President Bush.

I used to be worried that my viscerally negative reaction to watching the President speak was due to my admittedly extreme partisanship. However when the President gave the surge speech a couple weeks ago, I was able to watch that entire speech end to end. I usually can tolerate a normal Bush speech for less than a minute before becoming to enraged and or disgusted and or embarrassed to be able to watch it any further. But with the surge speech his demeanor was markedly different. Replacing the swagger and bluster was a solemn, contemplative and troubled man. The speech did not turn my opinion on the war, but it did prove to me that my reaction to the normal style of the President in speaking was not based upon extreme partisanship.

Unfortunately for the President, the surge speech was a notable flop. I must conclude that the subdued version of Bush was no more able to convince the public than the assertive blustery version. I suspect it actually cost him points with the red meat conservative base. Obviously, the American people have determined to tune the President out. So whenever he makes some supposedly enormous speech or goes on a campaign style swing in order to raise support for an issue, he just irritates the left and the rest of the nation does not notice. Obviously the state of the union speech is constitutionally mandated so he will have to speak tonight, and next year... but to my Republican friends I advise a Presidential muzzle as a very effective first step to redemption.

Next for Republicans to rebound, they need to be able to collectively and individually admit error. The Bush administration has erred in many many... many respects, yet the best the President is able to muster in acknowledgement of these manifest errors by the truckload is to say "where errors have been made" he is responsible.

Even after the administration admits that the stated cause for launching the war in Iraq were wrong, they insist that they would still conduct the invasion under the same circumstances. What is the point in admitting an error while boasting there would have been no change in your conduct if you had not made the error in the first place?

This attitude of humility when faced with your own obvious error would serve the entire right wing noise machine as well. The most recent glaring example was that of Iraqi Police Captain Jamil Hussein. He was the source for hundreds of A.P. reports from Iraq, but when Hussein was used to source the story about Sunni Muslims being burned alive on the streets of Baghdad, the Iraqi government and Coalition propaganda machine went into full overdrive. The right wing blogosphere, went berserk demanding that A.P. "produce" Hussein, or scrape and grovel before the world. The A.P. stood by their source because they knew he was a real person, and frankly the absurdity of the keyboard commando's demanding action of any sort on the ground in Iraq is just laughable.

Well of course... it turns out the right wing blogosphere was wrong. Jamil was and is real. What was the reaction of the right wing bloggdiots to this? Chest thumping about how this proves how unreliable A.P. is, doubts as the the story that caused the controversy in the first place... just about any sort of reaction except something like "we were wrong and we admit it".

Being arrogant in the face of manifest failure based upon wrong headed policy would be regrettable, but acceptable if it happened once every few years on matters of no great import to the nation. But getting it wrong and then being immature little brats about it going forward impresses the nation and the world with the notion that you can not be trusted. My litmus test for anyone to be taken seriously while holding forth on the future course of the war in Iraq is for them to be able to say that the initial invasion was an error. If you can not demonstrate the clear headed thinking needed to reach this now obvious conclusion, you do not demonstrate the ability to judge the course of future events accurately in my opinion.

Next, if Republicans are truly interested in bipartisanship going forward, can we please get some of the language in common usage by your spokespeople cleared up? First and foremost, let us refer to the Democratic party, rather than the Democrat party. Refering to the Democrat party is a gimmick some Luntzian/Rovian type thought would be a good idea based upon convoluted word smithing in order to denigrate the opposing party. Well it is irritating and does not bode well for future bipartisanship if you can't even get the name right.

I could go on at great length regarding more steps Republicans could take in order to recover some influence. Stop running campaigns in the mud, stop pretending that God himself is on your side, start telling the truth about whatever you are talking about... the list could go on and on. But I know that no part of what I've suggested thus far will ever be taken into serious consideration, and nothing I could say going forward will be either.

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