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First Thoughts: The Pledge

Why the House GOP “Pledge to America” is more like the Dems’ Six for ‘06 than the Contract with America… Pledge lists plans on five issue areas: jobs and the economy, government spending, health care, reforming Congress, and national security… The contradictions and omissions in it… And the conservative divide over it… Health care law provisions take effect today… Bill Clinton gives advice to Obama (via Politico)… Obama’s day at the UN… Profiling PA-7… And Whitman and Brown tied in new Field Poll.

*** The Pledge: Raise your hand if you remember the House Democrats’ “Six for ‘06” agenda (also called the “New Direction for America”). It was a list of priorities that Democrats, in the summer of 2006, said they would pursue if they won control of the House. As it turned out, it wasn’t a major factor that midterm season, but many of the priorities -- redeploying from Iraq, making college tuition more affordable, promoting energy-efficient technologies, lifting restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research -- have been enacted or accomplished since then (it took winning the White House in 2008 to finish their list of 2006 promises). Well, in Sterling, VA, House Republicans this morning will unveil their governing blueprint if they win back the majority in November. It’s called “A Pledge to America,” but it really isn’t a call to revolutionize the way Congress does business like the GOP’s “Contract with America” did in 1994. Rather, the “Pledge” is a laundry list of coveted priorities -- like “Six for ‘06” was. And it may be a list of priorities that will need a second GOP victory in 2012 to totally accomplish a la the Dems '06 pledge list.

*** Plans for the economy, government spending, health care, reforming Congress, national security: The 21-page document contains five plans: on jobs and the economy (make the Bush tax cuts permanent, give small businesses a tax deduction, require congressional approval of new federal regulations that cost $100 million or more); on government spending (cut government spending to its 2008 level, cap new discretionary spending, cut Congress’ budget, freeze the hiring of non-security federal workers; hold WEEKLY spending cut votes); on health care (repeal the health-care law, enact medical malpractice reform, ensure access for patients with pre-existing conditions); on reforming Congress (post the text of any legislation online at least three days before coming up for a vote, end the practice of attaching non-germane bills to must-pass legislation; provide in EVERY bill the specific Constitutional provision); and on national security (fully fund missile defense, require tough sanctions against Iran, and enforce the border).

*** The contradictions and the omissions: But the GOP’s blueprint also contains obvious contradictions. How does this demonstrate the GOP has new ideas when its first policy proposal is making the Bush tax cuts permanent? How do you reduce the deficit if you make those tax cuts permanent? Why work to ensure access for patients with pre-existing conditions if you repeal a law that already does that? Why push for tax cuts for small businesses when your party has opposed similar cuts that Democrats have offered? (Indeed, will House Republicans today vote for that Democratic measure?) And then there’s this: The document makes absolutely no mention about what to do regarding the war in Afghanistan. (It does talk about Iran and lumps immigration in their national security section). It also ignores what to do about Social Security and Medicare. And how do you truly address cutting government spending if you ignore Social Security and Medicare?

*** A conservative house divided: Conservatives are divided over the Pledge. Red State’s Erick Erickson pans it. “This document proves the GOP is more focused on the acquisition of power than the advocacy of long term sound public policy. All the good stuff in it is stuff we expect them to do. What is not in it is more than a little telling that the House GOP has not learned much of anything from 2006.” On the other hand, the folks at National Review like it. “The pledge commits Republicans to working toward a broad conservative agenda that, if implemented, would make the federal government significantly smaller, Congress more accountable, and America more prosperous.” David Frum explains why the Pledge isn't as bold as Erickson wants it. "You can primary a Bob Bennett, you can nominate a Sharron Angle, you can balk Karl Rove and Mike Castle -- but when decision hour arrives, the leadership of the party rejects the assessment of the American electorate offered by Rush Limbaugh, Dick Armey and for that matter Erick Erickson."

*** Change you can believe in? So you can already see the conflict and tension within the conservative movement if Republicans take back Congress. In fact, it isn’t too dissimilar between what President Obama and Democrats have faced from the left. In short, the liberal and conservative bases want to go farther than politics actually allows. Here's the thing: The Pledge is more detailed and substantive than the 1994 Contract, but also very politically safe. It's a document that tries to find areas where everyone in the Republican voting tent can agree on right now. In short, it's a document that attempts to find a center with in the Republican Party.

*** Health law provisions take effect: On the same day that the House GOP’s Pledge will vow to repeal the health-care law, many of its central provisions -- which are individually popular -- take effect. The New York Times: “Starting now, insurance companies will no longer be permitted to exclude children because of pre-existing health conditions, which the White House said could enable 72,000 uninsured to gain coverage. Insurers also will be prohibited from imposing lifetime limits on benefits. The law will now forbid insurers to drop sick and costly customers after discovering technical mistakes on applications. It requires that they offer coverage to children under 26 on their parents’ policies.”

*** Bill Clinton’s advice to Obama: Turning to the Democrats, Bill Clinton -- in an interview with Politico -- offered advice to Obama. “He’s being criticized for being too disengaged, for not caring,” Clinton said. “So he needs to turn into it. I may be one of the few people that think it’s not bad that that lady said she was getting tired of defending him. He needs to hear it. You need to hear.” More: “So I just tell him to sort of try to get the country up again without being -- looking -- naïve or la-la, but be optimistic about our future. Embrace people’s anger, including their disappointment at you. And just ask ‘em to not let the anger cloud their judgment. Let it concentrate their judgment. And then make your case.” Clinton also makes the case that thanks to Newt Gingrich in 1994, the idea that "all politics is local" might be out of date. In making his that the president and Democrats should nationalize this election, he also argues that ALL politics these days are national and when you consider the unintended consequence of the shrinking local political media combined with the simultaneous expansion of the NATIONAL political media, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. So for the candidate for Congress who tries to talk local issues, the avg. swing voter tuning into the political debate wonders why they aren't participating in the NATIONAL political debate.

*** Obama’s day at the UN: At 10:00 am ET, President Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly. According to excerpts the White House has released, Obama will focus his remarks on the ongoing direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. “The conflict between Israelis and Arabs is as old as this institution. And we can come back here, next year, as we have for the last sixty, and make long speeches about it,” the president is expected to say. “We can read familiar lists of grievances. We can table the same resolutions. We can further empower the forces of rejectionism and hate. We can waste more time by carrying forward an argument that will not help a single Israeli or Palestinian child achieve a better life. We can do that. Or we can say that this time will be different -- that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way.”

*** 75 House races to watch: PA-7: The Democratic nominee for this open seat, being vacated by Joe Sestak (D), is state Rep. Bryan Lentz. The GOP nominee is former U.S. attorney Pat Meehan. In 2008, Obama won 56% in this district – which represents the Philly suburbs – while Kerry won 53% in ’04. As of June 30, Lentz had nearly $800,000 in the bank, compared with Meehan’s $1.1 million. Both Cook and Rothenberg rate the contest as a Toss Up.

*** More midterm news: In California, a new Field Poll has Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman tied at 41% each among likely voters (so despite the millions Whitman has spent, the race is still even)… Also in California, Carly Fiorina’s campaign has a new TV ad highlighting the clip when Barbara Boxer dressed down a general before a committee hearing.

Countdown to Election Day 2010: 40 days

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