Thursday, February 4, 2010

Karl Rove: The President's GOP Outreach Comes Too Late

The President's GOP Outreach Comes Too Late

(Content entirely from Wall St. Journal)


Last Friday, President Obama met with House Republicans in Baltimore. He took questions, parried criticisms, and allowed all of it to be put on television.

Framed as an opportunity for the president to hear from the other side, Mr. Obama's real aim was to portray Republicans as obstructionist and boost his own public standing in the process.

Afterward, Gallup found that Mr. Obama's approval hit 51%, up from 47% after the State of the Union address two days earlier. But in winning that small victory, Mr. Obama also further poisoned his relationship with Republicans by repeatedly saying things that are demonstrably not true.

For example, when Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling asked if the president's new budget would, "like your old budget, triple the national debt" and increase "the cost of government to almost 25% of the economy," Mr. Obama denied it. But that's exactly what Mr. Obama proposed doing in his budget framework that Congress passed last April, according to both Congressional Budget Office and White House documents.

In Baltimore, Mr. Obama criticized the GOP's response to last year's $787 billion stimulus package saying, "I don't understand . . . why we got opposition . . . before we had a chance to actually meet and exchange ideas."

In truth, the president met with congressional Republicans to talk about the stimulus package the day before the press said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey completed drafting the 1,073-page bill. What occurred was a photo-op, not an exchange of ideas. Democrats at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue were scornful of Republican input.

When Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price complained in Baltimore that the president kept saying "that Republicans have offered no ideas and no solutions," Mr. Obama shot back, "I don't think I said that."

But of course Mr. Obama and his people have said that repeatedly. They did so starting in April, when White House aides swarmed Sunday talk programs to label the GOP the "party of no" and say that the party lacked both constructive ideas and vision.

Republicans did score a small victory in Baltimore. They got Mr. Obama to admit that the GOP has offered ideas on health-care reform, economic growth and spending restraint. But that doesn't mean the president will now draw on any of those ideas.

Mr. Obama's problems remain reality rather than optics. Over the past year, he hemmed himself in by leaving it to Democratic congressional leaders to draft his health-care reform and other items of his agenda and by not pressing those leaders to negotiate with Republicans.

Until Mr. Obama changes those practices, the country will see more party-line votes in Congress, albeit with increasing defections among vulnerable Democratic members.

The next battle brewing in Washington is over the president's proposed budget, released earlier this week. Under Mr. Obama's blueprint, federal spending would rise to $3.8 trillion in the next fiscal year, up from $3.6 trillion this year. The budget is filled with gimmicks.

For example, the president is calling for a domestic, nonsecurity, discretionary spending freeze. But that freeze doesn't apply to a $282 billion proposed second stimulus package. It also doesn't apply to the $519 billion that has yet to be spent from the first stimulus bill. The federal civilian work force is also not frozen. It is projected to rise to 1.43 million employees in 2010, up from 1.2 million in 2008.

As Mr. Obama's approval ratings have dropped, the White House has been consoled by the Republican Party's poor image. But that's changing. Since last October, Democrats dropped from a 30-point net favorability to a one-point advantage over the GOP today, according to a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll.

The fall of support for Democrats is also reflected in the generic ballot. Since October, Democrats have gone from six points up (49%-43%) to three-points behind (45%-48%) according to Gallup. The GOP has a seven-point (45%-38%) lead in the latest Rasmussen generic ballot survey.

Every week, it seems, more bad news accrues for Mr. Obama's party—whether it is a bad poll, a lost election, or a new retirement of a House Democrat in a competitive district. Democrats are in the midst of the painful realization: Mr. Obama's words cannot save them from the power of bad ideas.

Mr. Rove, the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, is the author of the forthcoming book "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions).

About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy-making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is the author of the forthcoming book "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions).

Email the author at or visit him on the web Or, you can send a Tweet to @karlrove.

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