John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Expect the unexpected (From The Hill)

Posted on June 29, 2010
If there is any iron rule to the political game, it should be: Expect the unexpected. Things change, and sometimes they change rapidly.

At the beginning of President Obama’s term, the conventional wisdom declared that the Republican Party was going to splinter and collapse. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) even openly mocked the plight of the GOP, saying that she hoped that the Republican Party would be strong again someday. Well, be careful what you wish for, Madam Speaker, because that day is just about here.

The conventional wisdom at the beginning of this year held that while Republicans had a shot at capturing the House, the party had no shot at regaining control of the Senate. But with the sudden passing of Senate President Pro Tem Robert Byrd (W.Va.), the declining health of some other Democratic senators and the fading political fortunes of such stalwart liberals as Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Patty Murray (Wash.), that assumption has been turned on its head. The Senate has a clear shot, while the House looks like a sure thing.

The conventional wisdom coming from Washington after the Arizona immigration law passed was that the American people would believe it went too far. In fact, many Republican strategists made that exact point.

Now other states are looking at ways they can emulate Arizona, despite all the jabbering and threats of boycotts from the left wing. The Arizona law is popular with most voters who vote, and that should give the

Democrats reason to pause. Immigration has turned out to be an issue that energizes the Republican base. Democrat leaders who think it would be wise to bring a comprehensive immigration bill up for a vote this year would do it at their extreme peril.

Last week, a Rolling Stone article rocked Washington and led to the dismissal of one of most respected leaders in the armed forces. Gen. Stanley McChrystal assumed that he could trust the reporter, who allegedly printed conversations that were off the record. You should never assume that. The White House acted with typical ruthlessness, canning McChrystal and replacing him with Gen. David Petraeus, killing two birds with one stone. The president showed off his “anger” and sidelined a potential candidate for his job in two years.

This week, Washington will take up one its semi-regular rituals when it gives Elena Kagan one of the toughest job interviews around. Once again, the conventional wisdom holds that Kagan is a shoo-in for the Supreme Court. Because she has no record as a judge and not much of a political record either, it is assumed by all that she will be confirmed. And that is still the smart bet. But she has a fairly detailed record when it comes to gun ownership. She is against it (to grossly exaggerate). Say what you will about the gun lobby, but if it decides to flex its muscle, it could make this confirmation a politically painful one for centrist senators. I can see a scenario when the Maine senators and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) are pressured to stand up for gun rights and other centrists like Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Bill (D-Fla.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Murray decide that they have to side with the gun owners in their states and vote against Ms. Kagan. But that all depends on when and if the NRA starts flexing its muscles.

It was probably a safe assumption that no African-American would ever run in a Republican primary and beat the son of Strom Thurmond — until, of course, it happened last week. It is also probably a safe assumption that black voters would continue to support a Democratic Party that takes them for granted. But things change. And the day may be coming when African-American voters get tired of being ignored and abused by the liberal philosophy of the Democratic Party and decide to rejoin the party that set them free from slavery in the first place.

Holding on to old assumptions is the most dangerous thing any politician can do. The more things change, the more they don’t stay the same.