Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
Republicans lost the election mostly because Americans want cooperation and a serious focus by Congress on the economy. They should have learned a lesson about the gridlock they created. Remember that Mitch McConnell and Rush Limbaugh said their only mission over the past four years was to make sure that Obama would “fail” and to not give the president any “victories.” Voters did not enjoy that ride. You’d also think the GOP would have learned that women, minorities, and young voters didn't like that GOP message.
Yet the first headlines the GOP is making post-election are for going after Susan Rice, the current UN ambassador whom Obama wants to nominate as the Secretary of State. Not a good idea - Susan Rice is a skilled and experienced diplomat, not to mention an African-American woman with a high profile and deep respect around the beltway.
The GOP thinks Rice is vulnerable to virulent attacks because of her handling of the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Rice initially mischaracterized the attacks as “spontaneous demonstration” by angry Muslims over a YouTube video insulting the Prophet Mohammed, instead of what was later revealed to have been a planned act of terrorism.
While that was probably incorrect in hindsight, I know for certain that almost all Americans think that does NOT rise to the level of a “Watergate-Like Hearing.” And, it is a dangerous place for the GOP to go since the Republicans cut funding for diplomatic security. I believe THAT can easily be made the big issue of why there was not more robust security at the consulate assuming that Democrats decide to get some cojones and strike at the Republicans over those cuts.
I have commented elsewhere that some Republicans feel that God sent Superstorm Sandy to punish Romney and give Obama the election. Now one of my students send me an e mail asking if God was punishing Republicans for continuing to squabble and make hay out of the Libyan tragedy by starting a war between Israel and the Palestinians. I hardly believe that God has time to micro manage! I doubt if God starts wars.
But it is true that every time the GOP leadership tries to grab headlines on Benghazi something else happens to suck all the oxygen out of those hearings. Now it is the renewed war between Israel and the Palestinians - in other words a new Middle East crisis. The GOP seems to have tin ears and can't hear what voters and Americans want.
Here's a recent example: I was at an Inn in Batavia, New York last week having breakfast in the lobby while a television was showing a news program. Sen. John McCain was on, talking relentlessly about stopping Susan Rice from becoming Secretary of State. The gentleman sipping coffee next to me in the breakfast room mumbled that McCain should "shut up and focus on the economy." We briefly talked and he was visibly angry that these as he put it "old and failed politicians" were talking about "inside the beltway, Washington games" that the rest of the country doesn't give a rat's tail about.
For the GOP to regain relevance, I'd tell them to forget focusing on election retrospectives - Mitt Romney saying Obama bought the votes of the young and minority by promising them "stuff," and the short-term GOTCHA over Benghazi and Susan Rice and instead focus on long-term party building.