I'm sensing a trend. Last October, the House GOP's ill-conceived government shutdown diverted America's attention from President Obama's massively botched rollout of Healthcare.gov.
A year earlier, in the immediate aftermath of the attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Mitt Romney inserted himself into the debate, harshly criticizing the Obama administration. Absent Romney's remarks, the media scrutiny surely would have focused on Obama's potential failings in Libya; after Romney's comments, the scrutiny shifted to him, and the consensus was that he had rushed to judgment for political gain.
And then there's this week. Once again, we conservatives can't seem to get out of our own way. Just as the president is tripping up in the national spotlight, Republicans seem to insist on stepping in front of him and stumbling across the stage.
Barely a week ago, I started a column this way: "President Obama surely has more than 99 problems — but here's one: He doesn't feel the need to even look like he gives a damn, even as parts of the world all but crumble on his watch." A week later, I'm about to ding House Republicans. Why?
The obvious answer is that the Republican Congress stepped on the narrative about Obama having "checked out" of his presidency, and instead, they became the story. And not in a good way.
Republicans had the opportunity to pass a pretty decent and responsible border bill before going on recess. Since there was little chance of Senate Democrats or President Obama supporting the bill anyway, the vote was mostly symbolic. Still, it would have been nice to go out on a high note. Whereas the Democratic-controlled Senate skipped town without passing anything, House Republicans had the opportunity to quietly, and without the kind of drama we've come to expect of them, demonstrate they were capable of passing a bill. They failed. And, despite ultimately passing a bill last Friday, they got killed in the press for the incident.
This is not an argument for House Republicans to simply "go along to get along." But it is an argument for smarter strategic thinking. They could have easily passed a fine bill and slipped out of town largely unnoticed. It would have made zero difference in terms of policy — but it would have been a small, if welcome, PR coup. We'd probably still be talking about the floundering president. Instead, they insisted on passing what they viewed as a more perfect bill, at great cost.
House Republicans do themselves — do the cause — little good when they get attention for internecine squabbling and incoherent obstruction. All they do is distract America from a president who has accomplished next to nothing in his flailing second term. The only time Obama looks good is when he's compared with the House GOP. You know that old line about not interfering with your enemy when he's in the process of committing suicide? Republicans apparently are unfamiliar with it.
This reminds me of something: They used to put up industrial safety signs in factories, saying things like "X days without an accident." Well, Republicans ought to have one of those signs in the NRCC. Because if they can string together 60 consecutive days without an "accident," they will have a very good November.
The good news, I suppose, is that they're only in session a handful of days between now and the election. So at least there's that.
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