Fri, 10 Apr 2009 01:31:15 +0000 – By Liz PeekFinancial Columnist
Here's what President Obama's overseas trip accomplished: it distracted voters from watching his gigantic, ill-conceived budget progressed through Congress. While Americans gawked at the Queen's gloved hand creeping up Michelle's back, those pesky representatives and senators passed versions of the plan close to the president's proposals; any minute now the House-Senate conference will put the two measures together.
Notwithstanding a welcome rally in the stock market, the economy is still as fragile as an Easter egg; Obama's budget is quite likely to make things worse. Rising taxes, protectionism, homage to labor unions, escalating bureaucracy and ongoing enormous deficits -- these are the hallmarks of this administration, and there is little push back. It is time for Republicans to halt this lurch to the Left. So what can Republicans do?
1. Cede Obama the Popularity Contest. (Not that Republicans are varsity players in this arena anyway.)
Beating up on bank CEOs may play well with irate taxpayers, but it shows the GOP to be as dim-witted and near-sighted as the Democrats. Fact: we are not going to exit this recession without a recovery in the financial sector. Fact: the administration's programs to strengthen the banks will not succeed without investor participation. The TALF initiative can't get off the ground -- naturally! Who wants to party with Barney Frank? The recent Congressional inquisition of poor Ed Liddy, the decent chump who's trying to save AIG, was beyond embarrassing, and scared other mortals to death. The Republicans looked just as unbalanced as Democrats.
2. Applaud Obama's Strengths. Nobody Likes a Party Pooper and Dissing the President's Magical Blustery Tour Sounds Like Sour Grapes.
It is nice to see foreigners applauding our president; we should enjoy the moment. But, we shouldn't confuse adulation with accomplishment. His ability to excite crowds and boost sales of little American flags in Czechoslovakia has little to do with achievement. Obama's recent trip, despite the gorgeous photo ops, delivered nothing. No concessions from the G-20, and none from NATO. Historically, overseas popularity has not always correlated with winning foreign policy agendas. Kennedy was a big hit internationally; he gave us the Cuban missile crisis. Nixon was unloved but in opening up China brought about a great foreign policy victory. Neville Chamberlain was hailed on the continent as a hero but opened the door to Hitler. Time will tell whether the president's approach to North Korea, Iran, Russia and the Middle East is sound.
3. Republicans Need to Develop an Alternate Economic Platform.
The GOP needs an alternate economic platform that leads to a balanced budget over the next five or six years, lowers taxes for businesses, creates incentives to develop our oil and gas reserves as well as alternative energy, pushes passage of free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia, emphasizes the need for improved worker training programs and education and educates voters about our tax system. A staggering 56% of Americans believe that people earning more than they do pay less in taxes. Tell the truth about our income tax system, which is one of the most progressive in the world! Tell them that our corporate tax rate is the second-highest in the world!
4. Republicans Need to Conquer the Internet.
This is child's play (really), but so far the image of Republicans as the Grey Old Party is completely buttressed by their lack of computer skills. They should be mobilizing voters to bombard their Senators and Representatives with e-mails urging fiscal restraint, and opposing policies that undermine our recovery. Those who are incensed about the battering of charter schools in New York should e-mail the governor and state legislature; those who oppose cap-and-trade, escalating deficits and self-aggrandizing spending should e-mail their Congressmen. The Dems are winning the Internet war; Republicans need to take back this turf. E-mails should be going out regularly to the party faithful providing them with links to important officials and legislators. This is not only essential today; in upcoming elections it will prove crucial to approaching young voters. Obama's campaign was masterful in e-marketing, and he continues to overpower with this medium. This should be an emergency priority for the RNC's Michael Steele.
5. Republicans Need to Find Some Moderate Candidates to Fill in the Void Left by the President's Move Off Center.
This country (mistakenly) voted for a candidate widely thought to be a centrist. That's what voters want; let's supply some moderate leaders, especially for upcoming races in states like Connecticut that are not going to elect candidates from the right. Republican candidates should also be financially astute. The Bush legacy left citizens pining for competence. Voters thought (mistakenly) that Obama would bring excellent management skills to the White House, because he had run a brilliant campaign. Once in office, Obama's home run streak fizzled due to staffing miscues and other missteps. Americans need and want smart people in charge -- like Mitt Romney or Mike Bloomberg.
Republicans have a chance to regroup, and to begin to reverse their fortunes is 2010. However, they will not make much progress unless they develop a clear, positive approach to bolstering our businesses and economy, select competent leaders to carry the message, and engage in new media dissemination of their platform. Now is the time.