I'm back from the Heritage Foundation, where I took notes on Hugh's panel so I could come back to the office and blog Hugh's comments on Hugh's blog. Very Twilight Zone, huh? Worlds colliding and all that.
And, for all those who think I am an alter-ego/figment/Hugh-in-drag, I'm betting you can see both of us in the same camera shot on C-SPAN's airing of the panel. Of course, it's still just the back of my head, so Hugh and I could easily have hired a decoy, but I'm not really into conspiracy theories.
Hugh, Fred Barnes, and Bob Beckel were talking about "Painting the Map Red," the strategy therein, and how it will affect '06 races. The discussion was lively and civil, and Beckel was his signature mixture of good-natured and crotchety, which is precisely what makes him my favorite liberal.
I'll let these guys do the pontificating, give you the quotes I got, and probably comment just a bit along the way:
Hugh had just come out of a meeting with Republican House Members, in which he warned them that they run the risk of getting wiped out in '06 (he also gave some tips on blogging and using new media as a tool for not getting wiped out). He opened with brief thoughts on why Republicans need to be manning battle stations.
"What do the Jets in the third Super Bowl, the 1980 U.S. hockey team in Lake Placid, and the Democrats in 2006 have in common? Nobody thought they could win it all."
"I see them (Republican majority) getting wiped out because they have earned the reputation of being like the do-nothing Congress of 1948."
The key to painting the map red, he said, is nationalizing the Republican campaign message of '06 behind the central idea of the trustworthiness of the President on national security issues and the War in Iraq.
"If the Democratic Party wins either House of Congress, I think we will lose the war."
He noted, with the disclaimer that he's not questioning anyone's patriotism, that various Dems vocally support the notion that President Bush is a criminal for employing NSA wiretapping and that troops should begin an immediate Murtha-style redemployment from Iraq.
"These sorts of policies...will lose the war in a way that will be as shattering to the West as the loss of Vietnam was."
Hugh noted that the moral equivalence of the Left has crept onto the Republican side of the aisle and Republicans are moving away from the President on this issue when they should not be.
"He does what he says. That is their greatest advantage."
He ticked off Santorum's seat, DeWine's seat, Conrad Burns' seat, possibly Talent's seat, and the open seat in Tennessee as ones that could go Dem.
"Heck, I'm rooting for Lincoln Chafee to lose, so that's six seats."
He reiterated his message for the GOP:
Win the war. Confirm the judges. Cut the taxes. Control the spending.
Fred Barnes started by saying he enjoyed the book, recommending it to everyone, but saying that he didn't agree with everything in it.
He said he thought Hugh's warning is getting through to Congressional Republicans.
"They do think they can possibly lose, I think."
As far as Hugh's 12-word message goes, Barnes gave more credit to the Republican majority for accomplishing those things than did Hugh.
"We are winning the war, " he said, citing the transfer of sovereignty, three elections, and the impending new government for the people of Iraq.
"Everybody who goes there-- and I'm talking 100 percent of the people I know who have been over there-- says we are winning the war and the media is wrong."
Republicans cut taxes in the President's first term and continue to hold the line on them.
As for judges, he said, "the Supreme Court has already been shifted to the right." He said it would be good to see Cavanaugh and Boyle confirmed, but he doesn't count it as a failure of the Republican majority that they haven't been.
He did say Republicans should get back on the judges message that worked so well in '04. During the President's stump speeches, lines about judges who respect the Constitution were always the biggest applause lines. There are many circuit court judges who are stuck in committee, and talking about them could help Republicans.
On controlling spending, Barnes says, "nobody controls spending. Not even Reagan controlled spending." He noted that the Bush deficit is lower as a percentage of GDP than it was during the Reagan years and called the deficit hawk argument a "trap."
"If you fall into that trap, you're gonna end up with a weak economy; you're gonna end up raising taxes."
His forecast for '06:
Several Republicans will lose. Six Republican losses with no gains? He doubts it, largely because "Republicans run better campaigns than Democrats do. That's just a fact."
"They intend to make it a choice election. It won't be a referendum on all the things the Democrats don't like about Bush."
On the "real security" plan put out by Democrats:
"It was pathetic," he said, adding that he was at the event where it was unveiled. Someone asked what was new in it, and all the Dems looked at each other, but no one answered.
"They're for catching Osama bin Laden. I bet nobody ever thought of that."
"I'm not expecting Republicans to gain this fall, not by a long shot...They (Democrats) can have a strong election...It would be a defeat for conservatives, but not that big a defeat."
"I've known you for a long time, Fred, and I know you didn't inhale, but brother, that last part..."
On Hugh's book and strategy:
"I've read your book twice because I couldn't believe some of it...There is not a Democratic strategist in America who doesn't agree with that strategy," he said referring to nationalizing the Republican message behind the figure of George Bush and national security issues.
He noted that he's been browsing the websites of vulnerable Republicans, and "the one thing I find missing from the front page of those websites is the mention of George Bush. I think there's a reason for that."
"I would think they'd want to make it as local as possible."
He discussed how parties are becoming less important to American voters, and noted that one party does not have a lock on the values that motivate the "values voter."
Hugh defines the values voter, in his book:
"Values voters" was shorthand for regular church attenders, but in late May 2005, my colleague on the radio, Dennis Prager, finally figured out how to define not only the "values voter," but also the "religious right" as understood by Democrats, their candidates, and their consultants.
The American people are not divided between those who believe in God and those who don't, Dennis argued. Almost all Americans believe in God, he pointed out.
But Americans are deeply divided over the issue of whether the Bible is of divine or human origin. Those who believe the Bible's text is divine in origin, and is thus not sugject to revision, are very, very different from those who believe the Bible was cobbled together by fallible men, importing their own assumptions and pre-modern superstitions into their accounts of God's design.
Beckel took issue with the definition, pointing out that Protestants and Catholics often have extremely different views on exactly what the Lord meant when He said, "I will build my church upon this rock."
"I would be very careful...in infusing religion and the Bible into partisan politics. As I said, it is demeaning to the Kingdom."
He pointed out that the reason the Dem majority fell apart was because they were viewed as government interventionists. Any problem you got, we got a government program to come into your life and fix it. He predicts that the Republican majority will fall apart because Republicans are viewed as moral interventionists. He used the Schiavo case as an example.
On rallying behind Bush:
Beckel said he's happy to run against a Republican Party that insists on rallying behind a man with such low approval ratings. Hugh suggests, in his book, the Republicans get Bush on the trail with them in the last days of the '06 cycle.
Beckel pointed out that Bush went two places in '05 with Jerry Kilgore, the Republican candidate for Virgina governor. He went to Richmond, where the black turnout was historically high on election day, and he went to Hampton Roads and Va. Beach, which Dem candidate Tim Kaine ended up carrying.
On the immigration debate:
"This is a very, very dangerous debate for the Republicans...You brought this debate on yourselves."
He also said Republicans have lost the edge they used to have on the immigration debate and the deficit.
There was much more in Q&A, but I'm gonna grab something to eat and come back to it, break it up for y'all just a little bit. Also, click away on the Amazon links and make me look good. Even if you're a Democrat, Beckel says buy it, read it, and hope it comes true.