Political Hay

Three Smooth Stones

To stay on message, Republicans need do three simple things this week.

By 1.26.10

How does David stay on message when he's opposing Goliath? That's the Republicans' double challenge this week. Even though a Republican won the special election in Massachusetts, the Democrats are dominating the news. They are very publicly plotting a comeback after their epic loss, and the president will take center stage on Wednesday night when he gives the State of the Union speech. Where are the headlines for the party of opposition -- which is nominally Republican but which includes millions of Americans who think of themselves as independents?

David's modus operandi was, of course, inspired by the beautiful Bathsheba: KISS -- which being translated means, keep it so simple even the Main Stream Media can't distort it.

The Republicans, and particularly Scott Brown whose honeymoon will be shorter than David's love for Bathsheba, need to keep the focus on themselves and the simple solutions they can offer to the complex problems that have vexed the nation since the reign of Obama began.

One thing is plain: Obama has not succeeded, and the American people know it. The economy is stuck in a ditch, and the mega-health care overhaul has failed. What an opportunity!

The Republicans should do three things.

One: Tackle the economic problem that is Americans' number one concern by proposing a simple (one-page?) bill to reduce taxes. There will be, of course, any number of suggestions for exactly which tax to reduce. But the key is to make the cut immediate, broad-based, and permanent. To the Democrats and the Main Stream Media types who say the country can't afford a tax cut at this time, they reply simply: the country can't afford not to cut taxes at this time. Tax cuts produce jobs. Could we have the next slide, please? Economics professors by the dozens have recommended tax cuts, and the Republicans will have no trouble rounding up legions of them, all armed with supporting graphs and charts, to saturate the talk shows.

Two: Repeal the stimulus bill. That will go part way to paying for the tax cut, and it will allow jobs to be created by market forces instead of crony politics.

Three: Propose a simple (one-page?) health care bill: a bill that fixes one or at most two problems with the current system. The bill could limit damages from medical malpractice suits, and put federal money into state high-risk pools so individuals with chronic conditions could be covered. The Republicans should not try to fix everything. Americans are sensibly skeptical of grandiose plans to solve all ills. They will appreciate the modest approach. Republicans should confess publicly to not knowing everything, and should make a virtue of taking one small step at a time for the purpose of seeing how much improvement can be made by the market after a single legislative step. They should be publicly cautious about changing anything -- as cautious as the American people are, remembering that the people are, by a huge majority, satisfied with their own medical plans.

How do the Republicans announce these three steps? With a mega-media event that takes the PR ball away from the opposition. The Republicans should all gather on the steps of the Capitol -- all of them -- to announce the proposals: the tax cut on Thursday, the day after the State of the Union speech, the stimulus cancellation on Friday, the health care fix the next Monday.

They should claim the mantle of modesty and say they are attempting to limit Washington's interference in the lives of the people. They should say they are offering limited solutions to complex problems because limited solutions have a smaller chance of doing damage. The American people will understand that. They don't trust Washington -- and who can blame them? The American people will understand the Republicans' modesty. And they will understand their proposals -- which is more than the Democrats can say about their own proposals.

The Republicans should be quick and concise. Their power will lie in the simplicity of their proposals. Leave utopianism to the Democrats.

Throw only three smooth stones.

Goliath, whose height is six cubits and a span, won't have a chance.

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About the Author

Daniel Oliver is a Senior Director of White House Writers Group in Washington, D.C. He served as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Ronald Reagan.