When I say some Republicans want to “literally” lock President Obama out of the Capitol, I don’t mean “literally,” in the Joe-Biden-sense. I mean it in the Oxford Dictionary sense.
That’s right – there is a growing chorus within the newly-minted GOP Majority to refuse the President’s request to deliver the State of the Union in the Capitol.
Last week, shortly before Thanksgiving, the idea that congressional Republicans might block President Obama from delivering a State of the Union address first crossed the political world’s radar. The New York Times published a quote from a prominent figure in conservative media pushing the argument; Breitbart News ran a column endorsing the move; and Politico noted unnamed “GOP aides and lawmakers” who like the idea.
Should the President try to come, I reckon it would involve closed, locked doors that would be ordered to stay shut, because if you’re going to go nuts, go fully nuts.
So, what should the White House do?
I suppose there are many in the White House who are advising that the administration just laugh it off, don’t give the idea any credence. Don’t “feed the beast,” as we say in the biz.
I say the White House should start helping the fringe right promote the idea. Feed the beast? Hell, I say force feed the beast like you’re trying to make foie gras out of it.
That’s right. The White House should immediately start having ‘unnamed sources’ tell reporters that they’re actively preparing alternatives for where to deliver the address, and express complete dismay that the GOP leadership, in its first act in the majority, is considering refusing the President’s request to address Congress, for the first time in American history.
Then, once the quotes start bubbling up in the news, have allied groups engage in social media shares, outraged that new Republican majority is about to literally lock President Obama out of Congress.
This strategy makes sense for three reasons:
- Bringing greater attention to this story will immediately take a toll on GOP leadership’s already shaking poll ratings, and change the entire media dynamic from “previewing the plans of the GOP Majority” to “Uh Oh! The GOP is already bungling owning the majority.”
- It wakes up the Democratic base, and gets them back into fighting mode for important upcoming battles.
- Assuming Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner know locking the President out would be a bad move, building this story up means Boehner and McConnell will eventually have to shoot it down. In doing so, they’ll show some deference and respect to the President, immediately angering fringe-right commentators, splitting GOP ranks more. That will lead to a whole new round of “the GOP is already bungling owning the majority” stories.
Let’s be clear. Ever since election night, the media has teased “Will the GOP Overstep” stories. As of yet, there hasn’t been anything that spectacular to show that their prognostications are coming to pass.
But a bunch of white men locking an African-American President of the United States out of their club? It’s something no Hollywood screenwriter could come up with. It’s the kind of high drama that would absolutely consume the media narrative, and thus the so-called “water cooler chat,” all to the detriment of the GOP.
Right now, these might be only small rumblings, but they should be considered a huge opportunity, at the White House.
Update: GOP now talking about defunding Air Force One, so President Obama can’t ride on it. Seriously, White House, pump this stuff up.
Update II: Richard Allen Smith gives one more reason this strategy makes sense: “The White House has had trouble framing impasses with Congress as Republican obstruction. Many independent voters from the 2008 and 2012 Obama coalition have a “pox on both your houses” view of both parties. Giving oxygen to the idea of disinviting the President would serve to counter that narrative and frame the GOP as unwilling to come to the table. The added benefit here is providing an example for the President to point to when he invariably must rely on more executive orders as his Presidency enters its twilight with the opposition in legislative power.”