John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Whacking the Right Mole

Posted on April 18, 2012

The key to political success is whacking the right mole at the right time.


Let me explain.


The world of public policy is ever evolving.    Things change and issues rise and fall with the times.


Balanced budgets are important when extreme imbalances occur in our national income and national outflow.


National security becomes paramount when our nation is attacked, when our national sovereignty is threatened or strategic reasons when we decide to attack somebody else.


When deflation becomes a chief concern, we pursue inflationary policies, but when inflation results, we become concerned with taming the monster.


When the jobless rate becomes unbearable, we pursue policies to help with the unemployed, which becomes less of a concern when we are at structural unemployment.


When we aren’t are war and we aren’t in a recession, other problems rise to the top, things like health care and education.


During the 1990’s, crime became a big issue, as did the war on drugs.  Crime has kindof fallen off the radar screen with the dramatic decrease in violent crime in the big cities.


Gas prices become a big issue every spring, and then slowly dissipate as the prices ebb.


You can’t deal with all of the issues at the same time, and sometimes you willfully ignore some issues in pursuit of the top ones.


After the 9-11 attacks, President George W. Bush became focused on one thing:   Protecting the nation from another attack.  He didn’t care about balanced budgets, he gave up his focus on education and immigration, and every other part of his “compassionate conservative agenda.”


President Clinton figured out that the best way to deal with “the economy stupid” was to deal with the budget.  It was a tough call, and he lost his Congressional majority because he made his allies walk the plank on tax increases.  Luckily for him, the economy turned around quickly, just as he was starting his re-election campaign, and he was able to whack the welfare reform mole just in time to position himself as a centrist.


President Obama whacked the wrong mole in his first two years as President.  Instead of focusing exclusively on jobs and the economy, he decided to pursue a health care reform plan that was not what the American people ordered.


He paid for that decision by losing his Congressional majority in the House and almost losing it in the Senate.  And for Mr. Obama, the price he is paying for going after the wrong mole is still pretty high.  Unemployment is still unacceptably high and his health care is still unbelievably unpopular.


John Boehner has been pretty consistent in his messaging, although on occasion he loses his focus.  He gets it that the right mole to whacks is jobs and the economy.  Sometimes, he can’t help himself in switching that focus the illusionary allure of gas prices.   The problem with that issue, though, is that gas prices tend to go down just as policy makers are all geared up to do something to fix the “problem”, and then the issue disappears.


Mitt Romney has followed the Boehner model by sticking to economy security as the issue. He touts his own experience as a problem solver when it comes to job creation, and I still think that will be issue the number one issue of this campaign.


The fact of the matter is that there a lot of moles out there and they rotate their turn in the hot seat.  Making sure you are whacking the right one at the right time is the key to political success.

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