- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2009

Despite repeated calls for order, the Republicans continue to quibble with one another, dithering over the outcome of 2010, 2012, 2016, 2020. Where’s the GOP message, the “brand” identity, they cry? And who’s to blame for all this angst?

That all depends on the day.

Luminaries ride the merry-go-round of wrath, propelled by finger-pointing. Sometimes it’s Michael Steele’s turn to take a spin. Or Dick Cheney‘s. Newt Gingrich whirls about every so often. Jeb Bush attracted some ire as well after suggesting the party embark on a cozy listening tour so that everybody can get in touch with their inner Republican.

A former presidential hopeful snickers at the thought.

“It’s hard to keep from laughing out loud when people living in the bubble of the Beltway suddenly wake up one day and think they ought to have a listening tour; even funnier when their first earful expedition takes them all the way to the suburbs of Washington, D.C.,” says Fox News analyst Mike Huckabee.

“If some of these leaders had been listening already, they wouldn’t need to form a group to start listening now,” he continued, faulting Mr. Bush for suggesting the party stop leaning on Ronald Reagan for inspiration.

“Most of us thought the party was pretty strong under Reagan and appreciated that he wasn’t ashamed of God and didn’t seem embarrassed of his respect for human life at all stages,” Mr. Huckabee said.

“For those on the listening tour, listen to this: If the party elite want to abandon principled leadership to protect life, support traditional marriage while going along with deficit-exploding spending, interference and micromanaging of private business and failing to police corruption and govern competently, then hearing aids or a panel of experts won’t help.”

Comeback 101

So, is there room for one more Republican tutorial? Yes, but of course.

“The lesson for Republicans is that you eat a donkey the same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time. While GOP attacks on President Obama aren’t gathering much traction now, it is never too early to start a meme. And the attacks will likely take their toll eventually. Almost every president’s approval ratings dip below 50 percent at some point in his first term. The one exception is Eisenhower, and Obama, for all his charms, didn’t plan D-Day,” says Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics.

“So what could possibly threaten Obama’s soaring approval ratings? As British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is said to have responded when he was asked a similar question by a young reporter: ‘Events, dear boy. Events.’”

Mr. Trende pondered the unthinkable — the effect of another 9/11, a nuke in Iran, the collapse of Pakistan, an endless recession. But what would happen if Osama bin Laden was found on Mr. Obama’s watch? The situation requires thoughtful stealth and caution, he says.

“We just don’t know enough at this point to rule out the possibility of a collapse in Obama’s approval ratings, though again, we shouldn’t interpret a mere possibility as a statement of fact,” Mr. Trende says.

Quotes of note

“What if Dick Cheney is right?” — Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen.

“A lot of Republicans probably wish Cheney was secured in an undisclosed location right about now.” — TruTV analyst Lisa Bloom.

“My dog is smarter than Bo.” — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., to the students of Bellevue Elementary School in Syracuse.

Michelle Obama’s ‘Mom-in-Chief’ image was created more by Obama image-maker David Axelrod to soften her into a first lady Americans could love.” — Bonnie Erbe in U.S. News & World Report.

By the numbers

59 percent of Americans approve of President Obama’s decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan.

68 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Democrats agree with the decision.

17 percent of Americans are confident U.S. policies in Afghanistan will succeed, 40 percent are not confident and 32 percent are unsure.

12 percent say the situation in Afghanistan is getting better, 28 percent say it’s getting worse.

46 percent say there has been “no real change,” 16 percent are unsure.

13 percent said the situation in Afghanistan will be better for U.S. troops than Iraq, 39 percent said it would be the same, 30 percent said it would be worse.

Source: A Harris Poll of 2,401 adults conducted April 13 to 21.

Days of yore

On this day in 1881, Frederick Douglass — the “Lion of Anacostia” — was appointed recorder of deeds for the city of Washington at age 63, after an illustrious career as abolitionist, diplomat and orator.

Everyone get out and jitterbug at some point today, which marks a momentous time for the Memphis Belle. On this day in 1943, the intrepid crew of this marvelous B-17 bomber became the first of its kind to complete 25 missions over Europe.

Fifty-five years ago today, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled for school integration in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, declaring that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal. Meanwhile, were they aware of the long haul ahead? The Senate Watergate Committee began its endless hearings on break-ins, Gordon Liddy and other matters on this day 36 years ago. Last but not least, the Department of Commerce yielded to the prevailing winds of feminism on May 17, 1978, declaring that hurricanes would no longer be named exclusively after women.

Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] or 202/636-3085. Follow her at twitter.com/harperbulletin.

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