John Feehery: Speaking Engagements



Posted on August 20, 2012

Ed Gillespie is a modern day Douglas MacArthur.

Let me explain.

On September 15, 1950, MacArthur led a force of mostly United States Marines in an amphibious assault at the largely undefended port of Inchon that was located far behind enemy lines.  The North Koreans had closed in on American forces around the city of Pusan and the UN forces needed a break out strategy.

The strategy to go on offense helped to turn the tide of the war and the United Nations forces were able to drive the North Koreans back to their portion of the peninsula.

What MacArthur did was a lot like what Ed Gillespie has reportedly done with the Romney campaign.  He decided that the best defense was a very good offense.

I might be giving too much credit to Mr. Gillespie for the stunning turn-around within Team Romney on the subject of Medicare.

But I know Ed and I like him, so I am going to give him credit for this maneuver.

The selection of Paul Ryan as the Vice Presidential running mate, for good or for ill has put Medicare squarely in the middle of the election conversation.

Republicans don’t typically win arguments about Medicare.  They have had a long history of relative antipathy to the program, primarily because they believe that it will eventually bankrupt the country (which is turning out to be accurate, by the way).

But President Obama did something remarkable two years ago.  He cut the hell out of Medicare to help pay for Obamacare.   Most of the cuts hit providers in the out years, which will eventually mean that there will be fewer providers of Medicare services.

And that gave Mr. Gillespie a huge opportunity once the Democrats decided to make Medicare the central battle of the campaign after Romney named Ryan.

So Team Romney took a mighty swing at Team Obama, a swing that connected hard.  Instead of batting down the hatches and getting into the details about the Ryan plan on Medicare (which never had a chance in hell of passing the House, in case you were wondering), the debate turned sharply on Obama’s $716 billion in Medicare cuts to pay for Obamacare.

The attacks came so fast and furious, the Obama campaign’s only response was to mumble weakly that Ryan’s plan contained the same cuts made by Obama.  Instead of talking boldly about how Ryan was going to end Medicare as we know, Obama had to say that Ryan’s plan was just as bad as his.

That is a different place from which to fight for Team Romney.

The best picture over the weekend showed Paul Ryan campaigning with his mother at the biggest retirement community in America.

Ryan obviously has little interest in throwing seniors out of Medicare.  His mother would kill him if he did.

That picture combined with the Gillespie “Inchon” strategy can help Republicans to neutralize the Medicare issue, which is about as good an outcome as the Romney campaign can hope for.

To be clear, the Republicans can’t keep hoping to talk about Medicare if they want to win this election.  They have to turn the debate back to the President’s stewardship on the economy.  That is their best chance of winning.

But by going on offense on Medicare, the Romney team has helped itself for the short-term.