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Open Letter to House Republicans

January 10, 2011

The first few days of Republican control in the 112th Congress were not exactly an unqualified success. Two representatives, one of them an incumbent who should know better, missed their swearing-in and thereby nullified four different votes including the one to elect John Boehner as the new Speaker. But that faux pas was rather minor—the votes can be re-taken—compared to the new leadership’s apparent lack of readiness to go on the offensive against an all-too-predictable media barrage. So, although I’m under no false illusions that they will either read or heed the following, here goes:

Dear Speaker Boehner, Representatives Ryan, Cantor, Bachmann, and other leaders,

Congratulations. You are now in a position to go forth and do what the people gave you a mandate to do last November. And thus far, you’ve shown an admirable determination to carry out the promises you ran on last fall, which shows that at least as far as the mandate itself is concerned, you get it. Unfortunately, as each of you should know in the poisoned environment that is the Washington Beltway, you are playing the game not only against the opposing team (Democrats) but also against the umpires (left-wing media) who instead of calling the game fairly are giving every call to the opposition and questioning your every move.

What that means is that you cannot simply say you’re going to vote to repeal Obamacare, thereby doing the people’s business, without answering the accusations, no matter how spurious, that you’re flushing the “good” aspects of the bill along with the bad. Therefore, according to your critics, you’re not giving the poor Democrats a chance to “salvage” the requirement to cover those with pre-existing conditions, parents covering “children” until age 26, and other so-called “popular” pieces of the bill that the left claims most people really want. You need to EDUCATE the public about why these so-called “goodies” are not so good when you scratch beneath the surface and that even these aspects of the bill by far don’t outweigh the bad. You also need to assure those skeptics who question the utility of repealing the bill, when it almost certainly will run into a stone wall in the Senate, that repeal in the House is just a first chink in the armor of Obamacare. Other chinks will follow because of the repeal action no matter what either the Senate or Obama does. And by all means, you need to have a far more guns-a-blazing response than you’ve had so far to the RIDICULOUS assertion that repeal of this bureaucratic monstrosity would somehow INCREASE the federal deficit!

The other tricky area where you’ll need to bring your “A” game, as relates to PR in particular, is the coming battle over raising the debt ceiling and the potential for a standoff with the administration including the possibility of a government shutdown. You do not want to get on the wrong side of this as Newt Gingrich did back in 1995 when he could have had Bill Clinton on the ropes. Again, you need to be Peyton Manning-like in your game plan, realizing that you need to overcome both the Democrats in Congress and in the “mainstream” media who will be demonizing you at every turn. Folks like Gingrich himself, who apparently learned some lessons from the 1995 debacle and Dick Morris, have provided some pretty good advice over the last few days that it may be wise to consider. For one thing, a doctrinaire stand against raising the debt ceiling may not be the way to go—it may be better to horse-trade small increases in the debt ceiling with a solid commitment to make significant spending cuts. And this too is a tricky place—you’ll need to have a good Plan A, Plan B and maybe even Plan C as to where these cuts are going to occur and why.

In sum, these first few months of your leadership in the House are critical in setting the tone for real change to occur—or not. It’s bad enough that this president will end-around you whenever he can to get his goals accomplished. That is all the more reason that you need to not only hold firm in what you’re trying to do, but to be unapologetic while responding to the demagoguery you will surely face. Godspeed to you all.

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