Jay Carney faced the press today, and… Yikes! That was rough!
On some level, you have to respect Carney. He could have woken up, faxed in a resignation Pat Riley style, rented an office near Farragut Square and started counting money. Instead, he chose to answer questions in the face of Scandalpalooza. And even if he had a rough day, none of the scandals are impeachable.
They are damaging, though. In fact, the last week and a half has heaped layer after layer of bad news on the White House doorstep. The mid-term elections are now 18 months away, and the window for putting up any meaningful legislative wins is maybe 10-12 months. President will have a tougher time advancing his agenda while responding to all the bad news. Ranked below are the President’s top speed bumps (that we know about so far today), with 1 being the most disruptive to the President’s agenda and 5 the least:
- DOJ vs. AP - People appreciate unfairness, so the IRS scandal will have legs. But no reporter will have any trouble understanding the First Amendment threats posed by the Justice Department skimming reporters’ phone records.
- IRS vs. Tea Party Groups – Political players wielding government power against their enemies is easy to understand, and makes for a simple story to write.
- Benghazi – Really, what’s the worst part? The administration’s keystone response to the embassy attack? The lies about what caused the attack? The fact that it looks like the President and his underlings were less than forthcoming due to the impending election? This is pretty complex – for scandals looking to catch on, complex is bad.
- Gosnell - During the election cycle, progressive groups tried (largely successfully) to reframe the abortion debate by talking about narrow hypotheticals. From the White House’s perspective, the silver lining of the week’s tri-scandals is that it takes mainstream attention away from the Gosnell verdict. It will help motivate pro-life advocates, but its broader messaging implications will be muted.
- Obamacare - Small business owners are already feeling the pinch. Kathleen Sebelius has been doing her “Secretary BoJangles” routine trying to fund advertising and encourage signups (like it’s some kind of high school club).
(If I missed anything, or if you disagree, leave a comment or yell at me on Twitter.)
Last Sunday, President Obama addressed Ohio State’s Class of 2013 thusly:
Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.
Cool speech, wasn’t it? Here’s a quick rundown of some of the big headlines over the last week:
- The Administration messed up in Benghazi – and ABC news showed they directly lied to the American people about the root cause of the attack.
- The IRS specifically and deliberately targeted the President’s political foes during the 2012 election cycle.
- The Obama Justice Department snagged phone records – both professional and personal – for AP reporters. They didn’t say why.
Everyone has been standing with Boston and Massachusetts over the past week. Finally, according to the Boston Globe, some political folks figured out a way to benefit from it. The Democrats get the dubious honor of finishing first in the race to tastelessness:
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was behind this tasteless tactic, sending out an email and tweet asking people to sign a supposed “thank you note” to the first responders. That would be nice except for the fact that in order to “sign” the note, you have to give the Democratic party your email account and ZIP code.“We’ll collect every note we get and deliver them to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino so they can pass along your sentiments,” Wasserman Schultz writes.
A note to the brave police and firefighters? How sweet. All you have to do to “sign” it is yield enough information that the DNC can figure out who your Member of Congress is and a way to contact you. More important, they can tag you as someone who cares about first responders. Then, if they were so inclined during the next budget crisis and certainly during the next campaign, the Democrats can reach out to you and tell you how voting for their person means safety, while voting for the Republican means a living in a post-apocalyptic war zone where warlords fight each other over guns and gasoline while neo-feudal serfs cower in terror.
That is, if the Democrats were interested in using first responders as political chess pieces, which they would never do.
The immigration proposal pending in Congress would transform the nation’s political landscape for a generation or more — pumping as many as 11 million new Hispanic voters into the electorate a decade from now in ways that, if current trends hold, would produce an electoral bonanza for Democrats and cripple Republican prospects in many states they now win easily.
Even Politico admits that this type of projection is “speculative” given that the newly eligible voters wouldn’t be casting President ballots until 2020 or 2028. It doesn’t keep them from speculating, though.
This sounds similar to the countless pundits on the right who have been wringing their hands for the last six months over the Great Question of What Went Wrong in 2012. How, they ask desperately, are we ever to win again? We don’t speak to minority groups! We don’t use Big Data! Our candidates are bad! Our messages are out of touch! Look at all the support for President Obama in 2012!
Republicans who feel bad about this should review the last several candidates for President produced by the Democratic party before they struck gold with Obama:
- John Kerry, an aristocrat out of Massachusetts who couldn’t beat a vulnerable sitting President.
- Al Gore.
- Bill Clinton, who was likable enough to score a second term but not ideological enough to move the ball for liberalism.
- Michael Dukakis.
- Walter Mondale.
- Jimmy Carter.
- George McGovern, an unabashed liberal who was thoroughly crushed.
- Hubert H. Humphrey.
- Lyndon Johnson, whose most liberal policies didn’t come out until he one re-election on the coattails of John F. Kennedy’s legacy.
- JFK, a charismatic and media-friendly candidate who was able to ignite the electorate and win wide popular support.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s 48 years between exciting Democratic candidates. If you want to find another Democratic candidate who helped the party ideologically, you have to go back to Franklin Roosevelt.
You could make a similar list for Republicans, of course. The point is, political environments are fleeting and not static. In eight years, GOP messaging could be very different, and the voices delivering those messages will be different, too – while left-leaning activists may be quoting the Great and Powerful Barack Obama the way today’s conservatives wistfully remember Ronald Reagan.
The President released a nice statement praising former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher upon the announcement of her passing today. Kudos to him for that.
There hasn’t been a tribute image posted on any White House or Organizing for America channels yet, though. Given his tribute to Neil Armstrong’s passing, expect something like this:
The National Journal has a sneak peek at the NRCC’s new, Buzzfeed-esque website, set to launch sometime in the next few days. Since the dawn of 2013, the NRCC has been quietly and not-so-quietly doing some good things to get House Republicans (and prospective House Republicans) positioned well for 2014 - rootsHQ has a good write-up of that.
On the design side, though, check out the lack of traditional colors:
Contrast that with any of the other alphabet soup committees on either side. There’s occasional splashes of black and yellow, but mostly red, white, and blue. The NRCC is trying to stand out from those sites, and the early peek suggests they’re doing it right.
This should especially help drive donations and activism on behalf of Republican candidates. The cynical analyst might point out that the only people who will visit a party committee website is someone with a keen interest in politics. The average citizen won’t look to the NRCC as a destination for content, though they might see content in other venues like Pinterest or Facebook. But those with a keen interest in Republican politics want something different from the party after the previous two Presidential elections when old white guys didn’t do so well. They want a different tone, and something they can believe in. By showing a fresh, new look – combined with the more aggressive and pop-culture-influenced messaging strategy they’ve been sharpening for a few months – the NRCC can satisfy the thirst among the activist class for a fresher look and feel.