Writing at The Washington Monthly, Ed Kilgore takes a peek at the latest GOP makeover and finds it wholly insubstantial…as usual:
The latest of the many Big Speeches delivered by Republicans aimed at changing the party’s image without changing its ideology was delivered today by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of VA in the friendly confines of the American Enterprise Institute. So important was this speech, it seems, that Republicans accused the president of trying to “step on it” via remarks at roughly the same time on how the administration proposed to avoid the pending March 1 appropriations sequester.
Cantor’s Big Speech was officially advertised as a “rebranding” of the GOP into a nice, positive, friendly band of pols who just want to help middle-class Americans improve their daily lives. And according to National Review’s Robert Costa, what would make the speech especially interesting was that it would focus on policies, not just rhetoric.
Well, you can read Cantor’s prepared remarks yourself. It certainly does avoid the usual harsh War For Civilization rhetoric usually employed by House Republicans of late. It issues no ultimatums and threatens no revolutions. But after three eye-glazing readings, my main question was: Is this all you got, Eric? Nestled in an endless series of soft-focus rhetorical gestures and “real people” shout-outs, the speech was the policy equivalent of a side order of chicken nuggets: small, greasy, and not very nourishing.
Kilgore goes on to note Cantor’s yawner proposals for education reform — 27 graphs into his Big Speech — along with some piddly job training and equally-predictable calls for giving states more leeway on Medicaid and easier visas for the highly qualified. Kilgore adds, “But wait: Cantor also came out for reducing loopholes in the tax system! And at the same time he endorsed the child tax credit that’s been in the code since the 1990s.”
We’ll try not to keel over from all of the excitement. Clearly, Dems need not over-worry that the GOP is getting it’s act together for a major turn-around in public opinion. As Kilgore concludes, “If Republicans are actually proud of this essay in policy minimalism–delivered at a think tank, no less!–then they are further away from any real reinvention of themselves than even hostile observers like me thought possible. ”