We are barely a month past Election Day 2012, but potential political frontrunners and pundits are already salivating over distant presidential election possibilities in 2016, well before President Obama has even been sworn in for his second term. Cable news channels are faced with “dead air," their worst nightmare, or having to resort to sports and entertainment trivia to fill the void. But, lo and behold, the Republican “Golden Boys” of, , and have quickly jumped into the spotlight to grab as much free air time as the freewheeling media is prepared to give.
The GOP may still be in a stuck place, filled with denial and anger, but each of these three souls has chosen to speak out recently in ways that speak to times further down the road. Does anyone expect these men to have even the slightest chance of being nominated by their party for the top spot in America? The GOP has a history of choosing the last “old white man” or relying on remnants of family dynasties to step forward.
Jeb Bush is an easier bet, if Texas oil billionaires get their way. No one expects the GOP to fall back on any Reagan progeny either. Name recognition can be a political asset, but the times, they are a changing. People want new ideas, not heirs to a throne. In this new era, a famous name can be a mixed blessing. What about Chris Christie? He definitely possesses charisma and gravitas, but his girth is an issue. Until he goes on a dramatic weight-loss campaign, the other campaign trail may be beyond his grasp.
As for this “transient” trio, these statements reflect their new and improved messaging:
Paul Ryan: At a recent dinner in honor of Jack Kemp, his former boss, Ryan opined:
“The election, it didn't go our way, and the Republican Party can't make excuses. Losing is part of politics, and can often prepare the way for the greatest victories. You know, both parties tend to divide Americans into our voters and their voters. Let's be really clear: Republicans must steer very clear of that trap. We must speak to the aspirations and the anxieties of every American.”
Marco Rubio: At the same dinner, Mr. Rubio offered up these words:
“Some say that our problem is that the American people have changed. That too many people want things from government, but I am still convinced that the overwhelming majority of our people just want what my parents had - a chance. They aren't looking for a handout. All they just want is a job that provides for their families.”
Both of these men appeared to be broadening their thinking, an obvious attempt to appeal to a larger electorate in future years, but critics were not so convinced. Michael Tomasky, a special correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, quipped:
“One can see already that the media is going to hype these two and their supposed new thinking relentlessly. Is there anything to the hype? Of course not, and the reason is simple. Neither they nor the people they’re talking to are ready to accept that they’ve been wrong about anything except messaging, and until they are, this is just gaseous rhetoric.”
Bobby Jindal: In an op-ed piece for Politico entitled “Cliff Diving," Bobby Jindal chose this forum as an opportunity to express his views on future Republican policy directions:
“At present, any reading of the headlines over the past week indicates that Republicans are fighting to protect the rich and cut benefits for seniors. It may be possible to have worse political positioning than that, but I’m not sure how.”
Why Jindal chose to speak out through this channel is a mystery. His ideas are nothing new: a federal balanced budget amendment, a cap on federal spending tied to GDP, a two-thirds majority required for any tax increase (why not for tax cuts, too?), term limits, and forbidding members of Congress from working for lobbying firms a full five years after leaving office.
Paul Krugman, a noted economist and columnist for the NY Times, chides Jindal in his piece, entitled "The Fiscal Ignoramus Factor":
“Even supposedly well-informed people on the right get their 'facts' from the likes of the Heritage Foundation. Probably Jindal never talks to anyone who will quietly explain that the fiscal cliff is a problem because, well, Keynesian economics is basically right, and you really don’t want austerity in a depressed economy. So he has some vague notion that it’s about the wages of fiscal irresponsibility, which it isn’t, and apparently believes that he knows enough to pontificate.”
At the end of the day, hard internal work has yet to be done by the grieving GOP and its leadership. Perhaps Tomasky sums it up best:
“As I said, the mainstream media will fall for this gibberish. Just hearing Republicans say that they care, they really care, makes their knees go wobbly. But rhetoric does not signify actual change. That requires searing internal debate and some new policies—new policies that carry the implicit or even explicit acknowledgment that the party has been wrong about some things. Until we see all that, it’s the Same Old Party.”
The Ego can be self-debilitating, as well as self-delusional. The GOP almost sounds like, gushing her Oscar acceptance speech in 1985, often misquoted as, “I can't deny the fact that you like me, you really like me!” As for the latest “triple threat” of Ryan, Rubio and Jindal, their new “lipstick” may dupe Americans, but we still do not like and still reject their ideas. They do not work, and a free market is not the solution for every problem that confronts us. Try a little harder, and you may get it right. Lean Forward!
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