The American political scene is shifting into full campaign mode. All of the Sunday morning talk shows devoted considerable time to discussing the upcoming midterm elections scheduled for November. Republicans are likely to fare well in the congressional race but Democrats retort that the opposition party hasn’t offered any new ideas since it was ousted two years ago.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky appeared on ABC’s This Week to answer questions about his party’s “Pledge to America” that was unveiled on Thursday. Democrats have already lambasted the plan as “more of the same” with White House political advisor David Axelrod claiming on the same program that the country cannot “go back to the policies that created the crisis in the first place.” But social conservatives have been thoroughly disappointed as well.
RedState‘s Erick Erickson complained last week that the Pledge “is full of mom tested, kid approved pablum that will make certain hearts on the right sing in solidarity. But like a diet full of sugar,” he predicted, “it will actually do nothing but keep making Washington fatter before we crash from the sugar high.” The document promises to extend tax cuts and rein in spending but is short on specifics.
McConnell wouldn’t say how he intends to satisfy the Tea Party insurrection that is demanding spending cuts to restore fiscal sensibility to government. Instead, he told viewers just how bad the other party has been doing. “The Democrats have had the White House, they’ve had a huge margin in the House, a big margin in the Senate, and [voters] know that if they want to save America, they’ve got to change the Congress,” he said.
On Fox News Sunday, Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California, who was one of the architects of the Pledge, was slightly more specific. He noted that the document contains “specific legislation” that could “shrink government” and “take away the uncertainty. The number one reason out there why jobs are not being created is uncertainty,” he added. “This could rein it all in.”
Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, also behind the Pledge, admitted that notions of fiscal responsibility weren’t new on NBC’s Meet the Press. “What Republicans are committing to in the ‘Pledge for America’ is taking important first steps in this Congress to steer our national government back to those basis practices,” he explained.
Pence rejected the false choice offered by Democrats between the failed economic policies of the present and the failed economic policies of the past. “We have to end the era of borrowing and spending and bailouts and government takeovers,” he said. The Indiana congressman hinted at Medicare and Social Security reform though no entitlement cuts are proposed in the Pledge document.
When he was asked what programs specifically would have to find ways to cut spending, Congressman McCarthy professed that all departments of government would have to make do with less. “We’re saying […] go back to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout numbers. We can live on that.”
House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, who appeared on Fox New Sunday alongside McCarthy, argued that Washington has to have an “adult conversation” with the American people first before entitlement reform is enacted. “Let’s make sure Americans understand how big the problem is,” he suggested. “Then we can begin to talk about possible solutions and then work ourselves into those solutions that are doable.”
The minority leader, who presumably hopes but is unlikely to become majority leader in the Senate come November, isn’t too worried about the alleged “extremism” of some Tea Party candidates. “What most Americans think is extreme is the kind of government we’ve been running for the last year and a half,” he told Christiane Amanpour on ABC. “We’ve seen the government taking over banks, insurance companies, car companies, nationalizing the student loan business. We’re on a path to double the national debt in five years and triple it in ten.” Americans, he added, “want to change” that.
Boeher, who, on the other hand, may well become the next Speaker, vouched to implement “a fair and open process in the House,” but wouldn’t say how he intends to keep newcomers, “extreme” or not, in check. “We’re going to drive for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government here in Washington DC,” he promised. “And to the extent that we can find common ground in that direction, I would welcome it.”