March 30, 2010

Larry King allows former speechwriter for George Bush, former speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani and former spokesperson for George Bush Scott McClellan come on and pretend there's anything left of the Republican Party that anyone could describe as "centrist". Just because a politician isn't acting like these screaming banshees from this Tea Party movement doesn't mean their policies are not far right.

David Frum who just got fired from his job at AEI apparently isn't done with making false equivalencies for Republicans yet. He and former speechwriter for Rudy-a-noun-a-verb-and-9-11 Avlon both agree that Rudy was the "center of gravity of American politics". Ah yes... the guy who decided to scare the crap out of everyone about the possibility of another terrorist attack and use that fear for his own financial gain with his "national security" consulting firm was a "centrist". Yeah right. Why? Because he only decided to pretend he hated gay people after he found it politically expedient?

And he's "strong on national security" because of what exactly? Putting the Emergency Command Center in the basement of the World Trade Center? He represented the "center" of the Republican Party's reelection strategy we've watched for the last nine years or so. Fear, fear, fear, fear and more fear (and tax cuts). Be afraid and daddy is going to keep you safe from the mean terrorists. Although he does seem to be having trouble keeping his fear mongering talking points straight any more.

Transcript via CNN below the fold.

KING: OK. Scott McClellan is David Frum right, in a sense that the Republicans, in this attack on Obama, have hurt themselves?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I think he has some valid points to make. Certainly when it comes to health care, the Republican strategy was to try to defeat President Obama from getting anything passed, and therefore make him look as weak and ineffective as a leader. That didn't happen. Obama got it passed. You're going to see the administration go out and try to educate the American people about exactly what's in it, do the outreach like we did when we passed the Medication Prescription Drug Benefit, President Bush did in 2003.

The difference is that many of these provisions don't set in for quite some time. And there are also some unpopular provisions in there as well. With that said, I think that several months from now, as we get closer to the midterm elections this fall, the focus is going to be much more on the economy and where the state of the economy is, rather than health care per se.

KING: John? What are your thoughts on Mr. Frum?

AVLON: My thoughts on Mr. Frum are positive. About David, you know, he is a courageous thinker at a time when the polarization of our politics has forced a lot of people into conformity and defensive postures. The problem is that when David puts forward ideas that are constructive and independent, and they break with the party line, you got this whole hunt for heretics that is occurring.

And the larger problem is, for the Republican party and for national politics, is that elections work best in America and parties are more successful when they appeal to centrist, when they appeal to independent voters, who are now 42 percent of the electorate, according to recent polls. And when you focus on hunting and chasing out centrists of your party, people who are committed thinkers on the center right, that only narrows your base.

That kind of play to the base thinking ends up distorting our politics. And it leads -- it's part of this whole cycle of demonizing disagreement that we've seen, that I think really distorts and degrades our whole politics.

KING: David Frum, are the Tea Partiers a threat to the conservative movement?

FRUM: When you bring on two people on to an important show like this, and they represent themselves as leading a conservative and libertarian uprising against the president, and you say what you would really like to do, and they say, we would like to abolish Social Security, if given half a chance, is that helpful to the Republican party? There probably aren't even two percent of the members of the Republican party who think that way. But that -- those are the people on television. That's not helpful.

John and I worked together on the Rudy Giuliani campaign, which I think we both felt that represented the center of gravity of American politics, strong on national defense, fiscally conservative, socially modern. There are things that could be done now with -- even now with the passage of this health care bill to make it better.

It contains all kinds of destructive new taxes. Republicans can focus on those. It over-regulates within the exchanges and stifles competition. It dumps a lot of Medicaid responsibilities on states that are fiscally strapped. If you talk practically about actual concerns, you can orient the Republican party also to be a party that's committed to caring not about the politics of health, but health care itself.

KING: Scott, what do you make of the Tea Partiers?

MCCLELLAN: Well, I agree with what David was just saying, in terms of coming on here and talking about abolishing Social Security. And then you also had the comments from the one Tea Party activist that was at the rally over the weekend in Searchlight, referring to President Obama as a terrorist. I mean, that's just outrageous.

You know, I think that there are probably many decent people in the Tea Party movement that have some legitimate concerns about their economic security, and they're looking for a villain. And the villain is the government. The villain is the Democrats, who are in control in Washington, as well as incumbent Republicans that they're not too happy with either.

But this is a divisive protest movement that plays too much to people's fears and hatred. And it's got limited appeal. I think that after the 2010 elections, you're going to see this party or the Tea Party movement dissipate to a great degree.

It's not going to be even as strong as it is now, and I would say that the strength of it right now is pretty marginal. It has limited influence. It really hasn't shown itself to be a strong, powerful force, even within the republican party.

However, it is pushing Republicans too far to the right. And as John talked about earlier, this is what -- politics is about inclusion, not exclusion. It's about reaching out to the center and bringing that vital center into your governing philosophy.

KING: So, John, where's the Tea Party going? Do you agree with Scott? It's going to go away?

AVLON: Well, extremists are always, ultimately, their own side's worst enemy. But I think it's important to understand the Tea Party movement in its totality. The irony is, in the core message of fiscal conservatism -- and I take them at their word, this began as a fiscal conservative protest -- there are bridges that can be built with independent voters, with many members of the Republican party, in terms of core philosophy.

The problem comes when we need to confront the fact that there's a lot of Obama derangement syndrome that's been baked in this cake. That's ultimately alienating to the vast majority of Americans in the middle. That's a courting of extremism that's ultimately their own side's worst enemy.

KING: Do you agree, David?

FRUM: Look, Americans have gone through over the past year and a half an economic ordeal worse than anything since the war. So, obviously, that has got people under a lot of pressure. And they're looking for answers. And as John and Scott said, that, I think, is what is true of almost the overwhelming majority of people who attend these things. There are people who are in distress. They are looking for answers. They want government to work better for them. And that is the kind of alternative leadership that politics is about.

And Republicans can provide that if they stick to practical themes that are directly related to people's economic grievances. There is just -- what has happened -- I mean the jobless situation is just horrific. The impact on incomes -- the impact on people's assets. Stock markets have recovered. But if you sold your portfolio when the market crashed, it doesn't do you any good that the stock market has recovered.

KING: We'll be back with more after with David Frum, John Avlon, Scott McClellan right after this.

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