John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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From September 27, 2007

Posted on November 17, 2008

September 27, 2007



The Challenge for the GOP (John Feehery)


@ 11:42 am

This is not a newsflash, but it needs to be said. Republicans are in big trouble, and they need to get their act together soon.

Our troubles stem not just from spending, as some would suggest. It’s not just about scandal. Not just the war. Not just competence, although our lack of competence as a governing party has been stunning, frustrating and dispiriting.

We had an opportunity to completely remake the government, to make it adapt to 21st century realities. And we didn’t do it. We ran the same government pretty much the same way as the Democrats did, only with a little less of the demagogic flair that characterized the 40-year reign of House Democrats.

Looking back at the Contract with America, I am struck by how little truly revolutionary, transformational ideas were part of that effort. It seemed so cutting-edge then. It seems so pedestrian now.

Balancing the budget, tort reform, regulatory reform, term limits, blah, blah, blah. It was all process, but process that did little to actually transform the compact between the people and the government.

All of our presidential candidates hint at the reform that is necessary, but don’t paint the picture in bold strokes. Giuliani talks about metrics, and metrics are important. Romney talks about his experience as a manager in the private sector, and that is good stuff. Thompson talks about the dysfunctional relationship between Washington and the rest of the country, and he is right on about that. McCain talks about the need for spending reform, and of course, he is right about that.

Only Newt Gingrich is talking the kind of transformation that our party needs to embrace if it wants to be entrusted with running the government again.

There is a great chapter in Malcolm Gladwell’s book about the Rule of 150. When organizations get bigger than 150 people, they have to rely on bureaucratic rules that inhibit creativity and stifle innovation. But when they keep their numbers down, they stay agile and able to respond to the needs of their customers.

Why can't we apply the Rule of 150 to the federal government? When a government agency gets too big, it should be forced to undergo structural reform.

When I look at those huge buildings that house so many of the government agencies in Washington, like HUD, HHS, et cetera, I wonder to myself: What the hell do those people do?

It is especially galling to see the huge Department of Education building standing tall opposite the Smithsonian, while less than a mile away sits one of the worst school districts in the country.

Republicans need to think of a new compact with the American people to reflect the new realities of the Internet age. The private sector, led by the Googles of the world, is way ahead of the government when it comes to delivering services. Government needs to catch up.

On every issue critical to the American people, from healthcare to immigration, crime, education, energy and national security, a new, fresh approach should be implemented.

We don’t need big, lumbering bureaucracies — like the Department of Homeland Security — that stifle innovation and waste money. We need smaller, smarter, more innovative approaches, that take money, power and influence out of Washington bureaucracies and put it back into local communities where it can do the most good.