Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Flinch Factor

Joe Lockhart, the former press secretary to Bill Clinton, nails the Republicans and calls their bluff on the censure motion brought to the Senate by Russ Feingold.

[He] sees no political downside to Senator Feingold’s proposal—and likewise sees much desperation in the Republican spin that it would be another self-inflicted Democratic wound that would haunt the minority party in the fall elections. All the G.O.P. bluster about an early vote on the Feingold proposal to smoke out weak-sister Democrats for elimination in November, Mr. Lockhart said, “is complete nonsense.”

He said: “One simple rule of politics is that the more ferociously you’re pushing your talking points, the less you believe in them. The Republicans jumping so hard on this tells you that they believe they’re in a really vulnerable position—that this issue is not the winner they thought it was.”

Indeed. The one thing the bullies have mastered is the flinch factor: the minute they bring up some contentious issue and blast away at the Democrats for it, they are sure that some Democratic senator — oh, say, from Connecticut, just to throw out a name — will wring his hands and allow that perhaps they’re right. If we’ve learned anything about the Republicans in the last five years, it’s that they will say anything if it will gain them a short-term political advantage, even if they haven’t got the attention span, ability, or even credibility to follow up with it.