One thing is apparent these days in Washington: The Republicans are lost and confused, and Obama is baiting them into making strategic mistakes. Rather than face off against a popular president coming off a decisive electoral victory, the GOP should be in a constructive mode. To oppose is a legitimate course, but it must be done on the basis of principle. Instead, the Republicans have come up with a document they tout as an alternative to the Obama budget. And they did this after the president used the oldest trick in the book—challenge your opponent to present an alternative. The GOP took the bait and the results have been disastrous.
John Boehner and Eric Cantor have to be the least-appealing spokespersons in recent memory for their party. Newt Gingrich may have been controversial, but at least he was thoughtful and smart. These two only add to the impression the Republican party is not playing its role as a loyal opposition. At the same time, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, Dick Cheney, and others are sending mixed signals, which will only ensure that Barack Obama gets his way. The Obama budget was an opportunity to debate the direction of the country. Such a debate is healthy for democracy. But the GOP failed to take a constructive and principled approach to it.
Obama has brought a new energy to the political game. His ability to inspire Americans at this crucial time in its history is welcome. But Obama is more than a charismatic leader; he is also a very talented politician. In two months, he has succeeded in making Rush Limbaugh the face of the GOP and provoked the Republicans into hiding behind an improvised model of a budget. In the process, the current Republican leadership has been discredited and those waiting in the wings cannot seem to get their message straight. Obama’s ability to successfully exploit GOP confusion may have more to do with his his ability to pass legislation than his obvious rhetorical talent.