Joe Gandelman: What we’ve learned so far in 2013
Let’s see: So far we’ve witnessed hyper-partisanship, President Barack Obama’s poll numbers plunge eight points, less than three in 10 saying they view Republicans favorably, Republicans showing barely disguised contempt towards Obama, Democratic liberals worrying Obama will “cave,” former Vice President Dick Cheney embracing the use of torture, Sarah Palin getting media mileage snark, Ann Coulter calling Bill Clinton a “forcible rapist,” and Democrats dreaming of Hillary Clinton in the White House.
So you thought this would be different from 2009? But yes, we’ve already learned some lessons about politics 2013. A few of them:
1. Barack Obama is no wiz at governing. After his 2008 Presidential election victory, some of Obama’s political team members moved on and Obama was left to govern. Obama as President was far less sure-footed and nimble in responding, and not half as tough on his foes, as he was during his campaign. As time went on it seemed that Congressional Republicans were a step ahead of him and more cut-throat Machiavellian. You get some of the same sense now. He’s no FDR.
2. Republican rebranding is failing. The CPAC meeting produced clips of a member seemingly defending slavery, plus other sound bites that will turn off independent and moderate voters. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’s impressive GOP’s post election “autopsy” called for a more inclusive compassionate conservatism party. The National Journal’s Charlie Cook says the GOP now has two choices: “change or go over the cliff.” Guess which way it seems to be heading?
Senate Republicans may further hurt the party among Latinos by trying to politically dismember Obama’s pick for Labor Secretary, Tom Perez. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent says the “campaign against him... will make the effort to block Chuck Hagel look like a knitting seminar. Given Thomas Perez’s background as the son of Dominican immigrants, plus his role running the Justice Department’s civil rights division, this isn’t going to make the RNC’s ‘outreach’ to Latinos any easier.”
3. Sarah Palin remains an acquired partisan taste. Her tiresome jokes at CPAC about Obama and a teleprompter (one report says she used one for her speech), her joke about Obama needing a background check, and her drinking a Slurpee to mock attempts to control big sugary drinks, only impressed Republicans. Palin is to thoughtful politics what a Slurpee is to wine.
In naming her one of the “losers” at CPAC, Mediaite’s AJ Delgado wrote: “Perhaps one should add ‘all conservatives’ under the CPAC losers list for, the longer we provide a platform for Palin, the more we all, by association, go down with the sinking, embarrassing ship. S.O.S. Please, stop the Palin insanity.”
4. Mitt Romney may have been forgiven by many Republicans, but they want to distance themselves from him almost as much as they want to distance themselves from George W. Bush.
5. Jeb Bush is off to an awful start if he’s running: his book tour was rocky, his CPAC speech fizzled, more damning information came out about how his brother’s Iraq war was misrepresented to the American people, and Bush family booster Karl Rove is on the political skids.
6. The party’s craftiest national politician is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. He’s young enough to run in 2020 if someone else goes down in 2016 GOP defeat.
7. Hillary Clinton is well-positioned to run with her endorsement of gay marriage that went further than Obama’s.
8. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is the now the undisputed darling of the party’s growing libertarian wing. And he supports comprehensive immigration reform.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.