Still not much going on. It’s the second week of the new year but not much is going on. There’s a lot of noise and traffic and Kabuki posturing, but not much of political consequence that is going on.
Not much will go on until one question is answered. The rest is as Bill, Shakespeare not Clinton, stated “sound and fury signifying nothing“.
The question that needs to be answered is “Will Republicans Fight?” Until the answer to that question is “Yes, Republicans are fighting with deeds – not words or promises to fight – and the evidence is that they did this and this and this, etc.” not much will matter. Not much will matter.
Republicans could get undisputed evidence against those they hate, wrongly or rightly – that Hillary Clinton, with a mask on, attacked the embassy in Benghazi herself while yelling “Allah Akbar” or that Obama is minting trillion dollar coins for personal use and hiding them in Michelle’s gunboat sized shoes or that Obama is in the pay of the Muslim Brotherhood and purposefully destroying America and Israel with appointments such as Chuckles Hagel and Kerry the Clown. But none of this would matter if the Republicans don’t finally decide to fight.
Republican “leaders” could get all the evidence proving them right on everything since the beginning of history but it won’t matter unless they decide to fight. There is no Republican leadership and there is already a moderate Republican group dropping “Republican” from name. A lack of leadership has even more dire consequences than a lost election.
Let’s talk a little Bill Clinton and a lesson for Republicans.
Not much is going on politically but musically it was a fun filled day we thoroughly enjoyed.
Consider: David Bowie released a new single today called “Where Are We Now?” It’s the first Bowie single in over a decade and it is a somber work (the recent Rolling Stones release “Doom and Gloom” has an ominous title but is much more energetic if not upbeat).
The David Bowie video about his days in the great city of Berlin is filled with foreboding and very much reminds us of Irving Berlin and his darkly ominous and prescient 1936 song “Let’s Face The Music And Dance”.
“Where Are We Now?” was released today as part of the Bowie celebrations of his 66th birthday. Today is also Elvis Presley’s birthday (Elvis would have been 78).
There was also a new release today from boy band
New One Direction called “Kiss You” which is the gayest thing we’ve heard since well, since Elvis released a certain song which lyrics few fully examined. In “Kiss You” New One Direction borrows heavily from the Elvis song and movie “Jailhouse Rock”.
A cycle of Elvis,
New One Direction, Bowie – it was a fun filled day. From Bowie we borrowed “walking the dead” for our title and suggest Republicans (as well as all of us) take to heart the question which is the name of the song.
Now back to the days when Bowie was playing with Tin Machine and Bill Clinton was teaching Republicans a lesson they did not understand then and still don’t grasp. It’s about timing.
Ever notice that there are some times when you can say anything you want about Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton? There are some times when you can talk all the trash you want about them and not much will happen. There might be some pro forma responses or weak defenses from the Clinton armories but not much else.
Ever notice that there are some times when even the slightest bad words against Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton will be met with scalding counterattacks that will persist on many levels for many days or months?
Ever notice that? Ever notice these periods typically last for a cycle of at least a year? Guess why? Hint: it’s about election cycles.
Back when Bill Clinton was president the Republican congress and the Republican/conservative movement beat up Bill Clinton regularly. Bill won office in 1992 and right from the start he had the stuffing beat out of him. There was some push back from Clinton but it was mostly a time of getting his sea legs.
By 1994 Gingrich had a major victory. The Republicans won. The congress went red for the first time in 40 years. It was a shock.
Bill Clinton went into fight back mode. It was a strange fightback. It appeared to many that Bill Clinton for most of 1995 was caving in to Republicans on just about everything. By the end of 1995 the Republican congress felt so impervious and triumphant they made demands which Bill Clinton finally refused. There was a government shutdown.
To many it appeared that Bill Clinton after the 1994 elections had completely caved to Republicans. As it turned out Bill Clinton had a strategy and a time chosen for that strategy to unfold.
What Bill Clinton did was “give ’em enough rope”. Eventually the Republicans hung themselves with the rope Bill gave them. We recall at the time making jokes about how Bill “yanked the leash” after letting the dog run wild. It’s a lesson Republicans need to understand because they have learned the wrong lesson from those years and those battles.
The lesson Republicans learned from the shutdowns of 1995 and 1996 are that the president wins during government shutdowns because the president has the bully pulpit and it is the president that determines what gets shut down first and then proceeds to shut down programs Americans support the most (for instance Bill Clinton shut down national parks and passport offices). That’s the wrong lesson.
The real lesson from the government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996? Timing matters.
Bill Clinton understood that it is election years that matter. Bill “yanked the leash” late in November of 1995 just as his reelection campaign was on the move. Bill knew when it was time to pick a fight:
“Clinton’s approval rating fell significantly during the shutdown. According to media commentators, this indicated that the general public blamed the President for the government shutdown. However, once it had ended his approval ratings rose to their highest since his election.”
It is true that Newt Gingrich made a pompous ass of himself during the first government shutdown. But that is not the reason Republicans lost the battle and the war to Clinton. Republicans lost because strategically Bill Clinton understood that what mattered was the election. Bill Clinton timed events so that Republicans would be punished and he would be rewarded.
Bill Clinton won the 1996 reelection campaign, Republicans gained in the Senate but lost seats in the House. Republicans in 2013 should learn from 1996.
The lesson for Republicans is that timing matters. Now is the time to fight, not later. The further away from an election Republicans are the stronger their political position is. The closer to election time the weaker Republicans are. Why? Because they are up for election and Barack Obama is not.
As we have pointed out previously there are 219 House Republicans who won in districts Romney won in 2008. That is evidence as strong as you can get that Republicans will keep control of the House if they live up to the promises they made to their constituents.
Too bad Republican “leaders” don’t read. If they read this website or this quote from before the House fiscal cliff vote – “But Obama and his staff believe Americans would have blamed him for taking the country over the cliff” – or the latest poll and the accompanying impressive graphic about second term presidential popularity, 2013 might look a lot different than it now temporarily does.
The lesson from Bill Clinton is that timing matters and a strategic plan really matters. Republicans have no sense of timing in the current fights and they certainly are not preparing the landscape for battles to come.
There is also the question of good faith negotiating. Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich hated each other but they managed to get things done because although they were engaged in political warfare there was a level of trust on both sides and both sides negotiated in good faith behind closed doors.
The present Republican “leaders” don’t seem to have a clue about negotiating. Minority Leader McConnell talks about “it takes two to tango” and that he needs a dance partner – completely oblivious to the fact that Obama does not negotiate in good faith. Obama cannot be trusted.
How to negotiate made simple, via The Maltese Falcon:
Spade flung his words out with a brutal sort of carelessness that gave them more weight than they could have got from dramatic emphasis or from loudness. “If you kill me, how are you going to get the bird? If I know you can’t afford to kill me till you have it, how are you going to scare me into giving it to you?”
Gutman cocked his head to the left and considered these questions. His eyes twinkled between puckered lids. Presently, he gave his genial answer: “Well, sir, there are other means of persuasion besides killing and threatening to kill.”
“Sure,” Spade agreed, “but they’re not much good unless the threat of death is behind them to hold the victim down. See what I mean? If you try something I don’t like I won’t stand for it. I’ll make it a matter of your having to call it off or kill me, knowing you can’t afford to kill me.”
“I see what you mean.” Gutman chuckled. “That is an attitude, sir, that calls for the most delicate judgement on both sides, because, as you know, sir, men are likely to forget in the heat of action where their best interests lie and let their emotions carry them away.”
Spade too was all smiling blandness. “That’s the trick, from my side,” he said, “to make my play strong enough that it ties you up, but yet not make you mad enough to bump me off against your better judgment.”
Republican “leaders” need to learn about negotiating from Sam Spade, Gutman, and Bill Clinton.