Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Anh Cao Goes to Washington

Oyster's piece yesterday was excellent.

It's not easy to be comfortable with the prospective mentors lining up at his door and Cao's preference for the House Ways and Means Committee seems comically naive, if it wasn't originally intended to be a joke.

Today, the Times-Picayune's Jonathan Tilove touched on the various GOP talking points on Cao's victory. RNC Chairman Mike Duncan and Minority Leader Boehner waxed on and on about Cao's race as symbolic of the upcoming GOP phoenix.

At first, I simply thought that Cao's victory was just being massaged by GOP messengers as a matter of routine. Cao provides cover to boost the morale of the troops, to win a day in the media. The GOP's got to take what it can get.

I remember when the Dems got massacred in the 2002 midterms but Mary Landrieu was able to win in a December runoff. The same sort of thing happens. Party leaders need some happy stuff to put into the quarterly newsletter, you know?

So they simply exaggerate the symbolism of the victory and the potential of the victor.

But at the same time, this GOP is in such disarray that it's not so implausible that Cao could find some room to maneuver. Or, put another way, some of Cao's mentors might find some room for him to maneuver.

Cao has two things going for him, in terms of political opportunity within the GOP.

First, in a rhetorical sense, one way the GOP will attempt to rise is by putting their best foot forward on ethics. Something something about absolute power corrupting something something. The Democrats got a lot of mileage out of the ethical missteps of their GOP colleagues and the GOP will try to do the same.

According to the Hill, Republicans are already salivating. The article features a lot of GOP ejaculations over the Blago arrest in Illinois but it also touches on the expanded allegations into Charlie Rangel of New York. More:

The stream of bad news for Democrats on the ethics front shows no sign of letting up anytime soon.

Just Monday, the Chicago Tribune broke a story about Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s (D-Ill.) questionable real estate deals involving a developer and a longtime political donor that netted him $420,000. In the past week, The Village Voice also reminded readers that Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), the top candidate to chair the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was videotaped accepting a bribe back in the 1980s.

“There is just a torrent of this stuff — it seems like it’s never-ending,” gushed one GOP aide.

I think it's fairly certain that we're not done discovering GOP skeletons, as a probe into Senator Coleman is casting a wider net, but I do think that the fractured GOP will fight back on matters of congressional ethics and honor in terms of perception and portrayal. Joseph Cao is a shiny new trophy for the caucus to be photographed with.

It's a no-brainer talking point effort for Republicans, who are fairly divided on matters of policy. It's something they can get the caucus around for demonstrations of unity while the fundamentalist and pragmatist wings of the party duke it out for future control.

The second thing Cao might be able to use is the aforementioned GOP civil war. Guys like Mike Duncan and Newt Gingrich are competitors for the RNC chair. Duncan is hoping to stay on while Gingrich is backing Michael Steele from Maryland. There are a number of other candidates for that job. The Republicans in the House have already decided to keep Boehner at the top, so there are few positions from which to reform the GOP.

Cao can play politics here. He has a higher profile than most freshman GOPers because of the nature and timing of his victory. He represents token diversity in a party that has none and he also represents one of major issues on which the GOP will use to try to climb back to respectability.

Still, the Ways and Means Committee?

That would take some kind of political savant. From Cao's "jokes" the other day, it's pretty hard to see that. We'll find out soon, I guess.

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I was also going to call out Bill Jefferson for not congratulating Mr. Cao but I realized that I hadn't offered any congratulations myself.

Congratulations to Anh Cao for his victory. I wish him the best of luck and I am curious to see what he's able to accomplish.

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I almost went on a speculative tangent when thinking about the GOP leadership vacuum, the RNC, etc. I'll do that now. This is bad analysis, poor speculation. It borders on a wanton prediction. But it's fun to do this stuff.

Guys like John Boehner and Mike Duncan seem to me to be fairly responsible for recent GOP congressional massacres. I think they're kind of in the same boat together as far as their organizing principles and messaging strategies.

Guys like Michael Steele and Newt Gingrich have been on the sidelines shooting spitballs from cushy perches as analysts for the media. They've been able to be conservative while also having the wiggle room to distance themselves from the excesses of the Bush years. I think guys like Gingrich and Steele are all about setting things up for the conservative 'solutions' of outsider Bobby Jindal. I think guys like Boehner and Duncan are all about Mitt Romney or something.

2 comments:

Schroeder said...

"on the sidelines shooting spitballs from cushy perches as analysts for the media"

Precisely. It's a heckuva lot easier to be a purist when there's no need to be aggreeable, or strive for compromise. But just like oxygen, too much purity is explosive when sparks fly, and toxic to living organisms.

James H said...

I am pretty jazzed over Cao's victory. THough as a Republican the Fleming victory in North Louisianawas prob pretty importatnt because whatever party got that seat was likely to hold on to for a long while

As for the CAO seat well who knows what that seat will look like after the census. If they want to keep a black majority district (which I expect will happen) the line drawers are going to have to hook up with areas of Baton Rouge.

I just hope Cao and the Louisian adelgation regardless of party make Caostal and wetland restoration a huge prioity and if they have too be a huge pain the butt in both parties till something happens.

It does not seem to matter who is in power but Louisiana is ignored on this issue and now we are running out of time