In 1994, congressional Republicans carried laminated copies of their Contract With America (tax cuts, term limits, etc.) in their pockets. They may now want to laminate President Obama's inaugural address and carry it around.
This is not as silly as it sounds. Republican leaders believe the speech pleased them more than it did House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Harry Reid. Obama's "new era of responsibility" echoed the "Personal Responsibility Act," the third of the ten planks in the Contract With America. Obama also said that it's not the size of government which matters but whether it works. Newt Gingrich coined that thought years ago. Obama lauded "risk-takers." Democrats want to tax them to death.
For the foreseeable future, attacking Obama will be counterproductive for Republicans. He's both enormously popular and the bearer of moral authority as the first African-American president. So the idea is for Republicans to make Obama an ally by using his words, from the inaugural address and speeches and interviews, against Democrats and their initiatives in Congress.
Obama is for bipartisanship. Pelosi, Reid, and their cohort are heavyhanded partisans with no interest in accommodating Republicans. Obama favors transparency. They don't. Obama says he wants "to spend wisely" and promises that "programs will end" if they don't work. That's hardly the philosophy of congressional Democrats.
Obama's words may be bromides or boilerplate that bear little relationship to his true sentiments or real plans. But so what? Republicans in the House and Senate are a badly outnumbered minority. They have few political weapons at their disposal. Citing Obama's words makes political sense. It's at least worth a try. Republicans have nothing to lose.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Fred Barnes in the February 2nd Weekly Standard: