On the Today show this morning, Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks sat down to talk about their new book, Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto. FreedomWorks is well-positioned to ride the wave of citizen unrest that gave rise to the tea party – they’ve been making the case for less government for years.
So of course the first thing they were asked about was… the proposed mosque at ground zero.
Armey and Kibbe are both bright, so they immediately accused President Obama of weighing in on the mosque controversy to change the subject from “failed economic policies.”
Clearly, the President will score no political points with his lukewarm two-step of supporting the right to build a mosque while not supporting the mosque. But there is a real threat that the controversy could muddy the GOP’s year-long message that government is trying to do too much with calls for government intervention in New York zoning decisions. As Gov. Chris Christie notes, Republicans run a risk by trying to turn the mosque controversy into their central campaign platform – especially with so many other messages that could work better.
Republican hopefuls must strike a balance between reminding people that the President disagrees with them on the mosque and using it to underscore the inability to trust the federal government to solve problems:
- “The President is commenting on a local government zoning matter instead of paying attention to national priorities.”
- “The President is talking about mosques while the rest of the country tries to figure out how to get out from under the failed stimulus package and get the economy moving again.”
- ‘”The construction jobs building the mosque must be their best idea for job creation.”
See? This stuff practically writes itself, and would allow Republicans to pivot to more substantive arguments about why they will make life better for the American people.
The GOP has plenty to talk about as November approaches. Armey and Kibbe offer an excellent lesson: the mosque is a good conversation starter, but it shouldn’t dominate the discussion.