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Cantor, Steele: how to avoid friendly fire.

March 3, 2009

Update: Rush feels that Eric Cantor didn’t really reject the “Obama fail” doctrine.  I was glad to see that, and read it. The video shows that Cantor did a pretty good job of  supporting good policies, and indicating that he’s with Obama if Obama proposes something better. He DID say “of course not, we don’t want anything to fail”, but he was clearly talking about the American people and economy, more than Obama.

Update II: Steele has apologized to Rush. The Dems are gleeful, characterizing it as Steele having to “kiss the ring” of Limbaugh. But I think he really didn’t mean to slam rush as hard as he did, and his apology is an honest one. So let’s concentrate on not slamming our own party in the future.

I’m a HUGE fan of Eric Cantor. He does a great job of holding government accountable for its actions. I have a lot of hope for Michael Steele, the new Republican chair of the RNC. But they both dropped the ball on this whole “Rush Limbaugh wants us to fail” thing.  Why do they end up attacking their own? It’s not that hard to avoid: watch Bobby Jindal get it right, here.

On CNN, Steele basically said Rush was an entertainer, and his show was ugly.  I don’t think he meant ugly as in hateful and anti-American. I think he meant Rush’s comments can be controversial.  Steele has already apologized for his comments, which of course brings its own set of problems.

Eric Cantor also denied Rush, on the George Stephanopoulos show.  Here’s how that went:

“So the Rush Limbaugh approach of hoping the president fails is not the Eric Cantor, House Republican approach?” I [Stephanopoulos] asked.

“Absolutely not,” Cantor said. “And I don’t — I don’t think anyone wants anything to fail right now. We have such challenges. What we need to do is we need to put forth solutions to the problems that real families are facing today.”

Note that George really gave Cantor some freedom to twist that answer into something more favorable.  Here are some tips for Republicans fielding the “do you agree with Rush” questions they’re sure to get.

1. Reject the premise. Some will ask them “Do you want America to fail, too?” Rush, of course, wants America to succeed. So don’t let the reporter or host put words in your mouth. Don’t dodge the question, but feel free to ask if that question is an accurate reflection of Rush’s (or your) views.

2. Acknowledge reality. Statements like “I don’t think anyone wants anything to fail right now” can come off as insincere, or simplistic.  You can’t build a bridge to everybody, and you have to stand for something. So when DL Hughley and Chuck D start talking about how Rush sound crazy, don’t jump in and say “yeah, he’s not down with the struggle!”. Instead, go with “I can see where some people find his views to be extreme, but he’s passionate because he feels that millions of poor Americans are trapped by liberal policies. ”

3. Be positive, but agressive. For example: ” I want America to succeed, but I don’t believe Obama’s plans will make that happen. Americans are hurting.  That’s why I oppose Congress’s tax increases. The President is calling on us to make sacrifices; so I’m opposing these spending increases.”  See how easy that is?

4. Be honest about our views. Most conservatives believe that the current raft of policies will destroy this country. Say that. Don’t say “I support the President’s efforts” because in truth, you probably want smaller government and lower taxes. Obama’s efforts are to increase both.  “Do you support the President?” can be answered with: “I think we’re all here in Congress to support America. If the President will present new policies that help Americans, I’m with him 100%, but right now Obama’s ideas are hurting the country.” If you’re pressed, fall back to “My duty is to the people, not the President.” or “I would love to support the President, if he will adopt better policies.”

5. Steer back to facts “Do you agree with Rush in wanting Obama to fail?”  Answer: “Rush had a broader point than that. He actually wants plans that oppose individual liberty to fail, and I agree with that.” Or if you get “why are you objecting all of the President’s proposals” you can say “because when these policies have been enacted in the past, they’ve failed. I want this country to avoid the painful lessons that Japan, Europe, and our own previous experience should have taught us.”

Remember. The truth is on your side. Use it.

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