Surprise. Surprise. The Republican Party isn't too enamored with President Obama's first close-enough-to-call-it 100 days in office. While the president is still remarkably popular across most of the country, GOP leaders in DC give him the thumbs-down:
In an interview with NBC News, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) hammered the president on a slew of issues, including spending, taxes, energy, health care, his handling of the auto industry and more.
Cantor, who said Republicans are going to go on the road with their ideas, accused the White House and Democrats of "tone deafness" because of its "reckless abandon" when it comes to spending, he said.
House Minority Leader John Boehner said he wouldn't give Obama "a very good grade" on his first 100 days. He says they have been marked (and marred) by spending, taxing, borrowing and "ducking the hard choices."
"Americans are fed up with unprecedented spending," Boehner said at news conference this morning. "What we saw at the tea parties was a demonstration of that."
He added, "We feel over the last three months we've presented" good ideas and "solutions" that were better than the Democrats'.
The problem is that the public doesn't quite see the world the way the Cantor and Boehner do.
Taking some sort of confidence in the size of "tea parties" isn't the smartest thing to do if you're running the Republican Party. It's far more disconcerting that the public sees the country going in the "right track" for the first time in five years. That direction implicitly includes the "unprecedented spending" that Boehner frets about.
Far more troubling for Republicans -- who should be trying to craft a forward-looking agenda -- is that the very little air-space in which the minority party is able to play is actually be taken up by the discussion of Bush-era policies.
While it's true that discussion of either "torture" or "enhanced interrogation techniques" is a distraction that Obama doesn't need, one wonders if the GOP needs this distraction either. Consider what this debate has done:
1) It's made former VP Dick Cheney even morethe face of the GOP than Rush Limbaugh could ever pretend to be. His interviews immediately eclipse anything from any Republican congressional leader or governor.
2) GOP leaders -- including Boehner -- are being drawn into this debate instead of offering alternatives on health-care, energy and other policies. The White House can handle a variety of issues at the same time. The minority party can't.
3) While the GOP feels that it is on offense when discussing national security and terror-fighting tactics, the fact is that ultimately the party is playing defense -- of the decisions made by the former administration. That would be an administration that is supremely unpopular, fairly or otherwise.
Barack Obama at least appears reluctant to pursue the torture issue -- as he pushes his main agenda. Meanwhile the GOP seems eager to engage him on it. As a result, the president looks like he's proceeding forward, while Republicans are battling a war that most Americans want to move forward from.
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.