The Republicans have announced that they will send one of their new “young guns”, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, to give the rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union address on Wednesday night. I suppose I should be excited about this, since I’m told McDonnell is one of the new breed of super-powered conservatives who will show the GOP how to win in places the MSM say they shouldn’t because they’re nightmarish monsters from the seventh circle of hell. On the other hand, who but a true politics junkie can get excited about a 15-minute speech using the same old boring and stilted political language, especially when it comes after a speech by arguably the most gifted speech-reader I’ve seen in my lifetime
The truth is, most Americans aren’t political junkies and they won’t pay much attention to McDonnell at all. Unless he truly embarrasses himself, his 15 minutes will get boiled down to a ten second sound byte in the Thursday morning news reports and pretty much forgotten by the time noon rolls around.
The GOP has a rare opportunity to talk directly to all of America, something the minority party only gets once or twice a year. Why waste it with a speech?
I say the Republicans ought to try something different. The GOP has been making noises lately that its changed its ways and it has something new and positive to offer the nation, so why not deliver that message in a way that will get the country’s attention and dominate the media coverage for a few days after the speech?
Here’s my idea. The GOP should bring McDonnell, Christie, and Brown in for an unscripted, half-hour round-table discussion. I don’t mean a panel or a trio of shorter speeeches. I mean, sit the three of them around a round table, and let them talk to each other. They won’t need a moderator since all three of them are used to speaking extemporaneously. Just give them a basic script so they know who does the intro and sign-off, what topic to tackle (hint: JOBS!), and let them talk. They’re all smart men with good ideas and they’re good speakers. Let them tell America, in their own voices, what their conservative plans for the economy are (and they all have them, so why in the world wouldn’t Republicans want to give them all the publicity they can?).
I realize that a roundtable is fraught with potential pitfalls. One of them could go off the rails. They could end up debating more than they agree. They could be boring. But really, could they be any worse or utterly forgettable than the last few GOP rebuttals? Even if they spend the half-hour debating each other, that’s a good thing. The nation will learn that Republicans aren’t afraid to hash their ideas out in the open where everyone can see them. It will be an unspoken rebuttal of the almost hostile secrecy of the Democratic majority. On top of that, viewers will get to see how reasonable conservatives work out their differences without rancor. That’s still a big win.
I also realize that setting this up will take some real hustle; however, the GOP is jam-packed with smart staffers and advisers. Get a few of them together and make it happen. Really, the roundtable won’t be as difficult as you might think. Someone would need to get the three together a couple times before Wednesday, though one marathon session would probably do the trick. They could do a couple run-throughs, to get them comfortable with each other, and that would be about all they’d need. Remember, the goal here is not to look polished, but to have a conversation.
The potential payoff would be immense. Even if it’s only a minor success, the roundtable will dominate the news cycle for at least a day. How could the MSM ignore it? The novelty alone will make it newsworthy. If, as I suspect, we see a lively discussion of how conservative values will produce jobs, how reducing the Federal government will give the states room to maneuver, and how giving you back control of your economic destiny will mean a return to prosperity, it will be an enormous win for the right and a crushing blow to the Democrats.
Remember, folks, America might have elected a few Republicans lately, but that doesn’t mean the country trusts the GOP. Giving them a good taste of what the GOP is really about today, through a candid and interesting conversation among three of the “new breed” of Republican can help bring that trust back. What do they have to lose, really?