Monday, August 9, 2010

GOP leader admits Republicans have "credibility problem" on deficits

The Wahington Post's The Plum:

Everyone is digging through the lively exchange that David Gregory had with GOP leaders John Boehner and Mike Pence on Meet the Press yesterday over whether to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Most people are focusing on the fact that the two Republican leaders, under persistent questioning by Gregory, refused to say how the tax cuts would be paid for. No question, that's noteworthy, and Gregory deserves credit for pressing the issue.

But the most interesting aspect of the exchange was that Pence, the chairman of the House Republican Conference, openly admitted that the GOP has a "credibility problem" on tax cuts and the deficit. From the transcript:

DAVID GREGORY: Congressman, you're asking Americans to believe the Republicans will have spending discipline when you're saying extend the tax cuts that aren't paid for and cut the deficit. How is that a consistent, credible message?

PENCE: Well, I understand the credibility problem, David. You know that during the first six years of this decade, I spent most of my time fighting against runaway spending under Republicans. I opposed No Child Left Behind, I opposed the Medicare prescription drug bill, I opposed the Wall Street bailout.

What the American people are starting to see is that Republican, Republicans on Capitol Hill get it and the Democrats, from the White House to Capitol Hill, just don't get...

Pence openly acknowledged here that Republicans have a "credibility problem" on this issue because the GOP ran up the deficit during the Bush years. To be sure, Pence also said he spent years and years fighting "runaway spending" under the previous administration. But he seems to be acknowledging that the rest of the party does, indeed, have a credibility problem, thanks to the Bush record on the deficit.

Pence's admission seemed intended as part of a larger GOP strategy. Republicans have undertaken a systematic effort to achieve separation from Bush and the GOP Congress of the previous decade by acknowledging that the previous GOP leadership was out of control and claiming the new leadership is very different. That's what Pence seemed to be driving at.

But from a messaging perspective, Pence's formulation seems ham-handed, and it wouldn't be surprising if Dems adopt it as a talking point for the coming deficit and tax cut showdown, which promises to be central to the midterm elections: "Even the number three in the House GOP leadership says his party lacks credibility on this issue

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