On the political gimmickry scale, the GOP's new "Pledge to America" is worse than some, better than others. Let's say it falls somewhere between the Federalist Papers and a Harry Reid press release -- which, admittedly, pins it down as much as saying you lost a cufflink somewhere between Burkina Faso and Cleveland.
First and foremost it promises to focus on job creation, vowing to stop all scheduled tax hikes (i.e., the expiration of the Bush tax cuts). It offers a steep tax deduction for small businesses and a renewed commitment to curbing business-stifling regulations.
The Pledge also stands athwart the Obama agenda, promising to "repeal and replace the government takeover of health care," cancel the unspent portion of the stimulus, and drive a stake through the heart of TARP. The Republicans also promise to "roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels" and disentangle the government from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
That's hardly all of the substance, but the politics are more interesting. Naturally, Democrats attacked the Pledge before they read it as a mean-spirited, irresponsible return to the boneheaded and miserly policies of the Bush years. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn insisted it would "visit a plague on Americans."
Compared to what many Democrats said about the Contract With America, this is a ringing endorsement. Rep. Charlie Rangel said of the 1994 Republican platform: "Hitler wasn't even talking about doing these things." And though that is technically true -- Hitler wasn't talking about term limits for committee chairs or demanding an independent audit of Congress's budget -- the insinuation was a good deal more sinister. Indeed, Rep. Major Owens said that the '94 Republicans were hell-bent on "genocide." Meanwhile, Clyburn's biblical-sounding Republican "plague" might invite worries about locusts or, at worst, the killing of the first-born male child in every household.
On the right, reactions were mostly positive, with a healthy mix of skepticism. "I love it," wrote blogger Michelle Malkin, "provided the words jump off the paper and into reality at some point soon." Erick Erickson of the conservative website Red State stood out for his rage against the whole thing, calling it a "series of compromises and milquetoast rhetorical flourishes in search of unanimity among House Republicans because (they do) not have the fortitude to lead boldly in opposition to Barack Obama."
Meanwhile, others, like Charles Krauthammer, argued that the substance was fine, but it was politically dumb to offer any substance at all. The Democrats are self-destructing like a tape-recording in "Mission: Impossible," why get in the way?
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