Friday Skiparound

Several items from around the web…

1. The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan is alternately infuriating and brilliant. Today she’s the latter, with a spot-on piece about catastrophic victories for the Democrats and Republicans. Noonan suggests that a victory on Obamacare would ruin the Democrats, which is borne out by poll after poll, while having the federal seizure of the medical sector go down in flames would also be a disaster for them after so much of the president’s dwindling political capital has been poured into it.

But she then echoes something we have discussed here at The Hayride ad nauseam, something even embattled Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele has said – namely, that if the GOP is able to make major electoral gains this fall and in 2012, which appears a near-certainty given the current trajectory, without learning the lessons of the disasters in 2006 and 2008. And, as she often does when she’s on her game, Noonan articulates it well…

I spoke a few weeks ago with a respected Republican congressman who told me with some excitement of a bill he’s put forward to address the growth of entitlements and long-term government spending. We only have three or four years to get it right, he said. He made a strong case. I asked if his party was doing anything to get behind the bill, and he got the blanched look people get when they’re trying to keep their faces from betraying anything. Not really, he said. Then he shrugged. “They’re waiting for the Democrats to destroy themselves.”

This isn’t news, really, but it was startling to hear a successful Republican political practitioner say it.

Republican political professionals in Washington assume a coming victory. They do not see that 2010 could be a catastrophic victory for them. If they seize back power without clear purpose, if they are not serious, if they do the lazy and cynical thing by just sitting back and letting the Democrats lose, three bad things will happen. They will contribute to the air of cynicism in which our citizens marinate. Their lack of seriousness will be discerned by the Republican base, whose enthusiasm and generosity will be blunted. And the Republicans themselves will be left unable to lead when their time comes, because operating cynically will allow the public to view them cynically, which will lessen the chance they will be able to do anything constructive.

In this sense, the cynical view—we can sit back and wait—is naive. The idealistic view—we must stand for things and move on them now—is shrewder.

2. As further evidence of Noonan’s formulation of the health care issue, enter Ben Nelson – who is suffering from severe buyer’s remorse for the Cornhusker Kickback. Nelson called the 2009 push for Obamacare “a mistake” in lieu of the need to focus on an ailing economy and create jobs, and indicated that his vote was only rented by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with a permanent federal pickup of Nebraska’s additional Medicaid costs, not bought.

The public option “is dead,” he said. “If it isn’t, then it dooms the entire bill.

“If there’s very much of (the House) bill in there, and if it’s got the public option in there, it loses not only my support, but perhaps a couple of others,” Nelson said.

3. Nelson’s points seem well-made in light of today’s disclosure that the unemployment rate has not fallen and remains at 10 percent – not to mention a persistent feeling among many of the American people that a second 1930’s-style Great Depression could be afoot.. But if he knows what he’s talking about, it doesn’t appear he’s got much influence in his own party. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying the “public option” is anything but dead, according to a report by TheHill.com.

4. Finally, our examination of Steele’s performance as RNC chair is being duplicated throughout the blogosphere. Robert Costa at The National Review offers a frank and rather unfriendly assessment of Steele well worth a read:

Like many supposedly right-of-center pundits, Steele sees finger-wagging at fellow conservatives as his best shot at feeding his own addiction: publicity. In this sense, Steele is marketing himself to the commentariat, while a full-time chairman no less, as the GOP’s Anthony Robbins–meets–Deepak Chopra — a self-help sensei with camera-ready platitudes. At a time when the GOP needs to build on the momentum of the tea-party movement, Steele’s strategy seems frivolous to many.

Steele, of course, doesn’t see it that way. In a frank interview with National Review Online this week, he defended his book, his speaking fees, and his tenure as RNC chief. Right Now, he says, is “like a grassroots thesis.” He says he started writing the book in 2008 during the presidential campaign as a “reflection” on the GOP’s woes during George W. Bush’s second term and the “sourness that a lot of Republicans felt, particularly conservatives, about the party and the direction we where headed.” What the GOP needed, he said, was “some healing,” and he was going to give it to them.

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