Stand tall, don’t you fall. For God’s sake don’t go and do something foolish.
— The Guess Who
For people who think the United States’ flawed two-party system of electing its president will remain intact through the 2016 election — and for those who thought the 2012 campaign was wa-a-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y too long — a sobering note:
The opening salvo in what should be an intriguing, and very long, ‘16 showdown was fired earlier this week — yes, before we’d even gotten over our Rockin’ New Years Carson Daily overdose — as a trio of Republicans took well-planned risks in their votes to prevent the government’s plunge into the unknown over the so-called fiscal cliff.
Senators Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the failed 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate, Marco Rubio of Florida and — it should be noted, to a much lesser degree — Rand Paul of Kentucky cast what have to be considered calculated votes as Congress avoided (some say merely delayed, but that’s semantics) the unknown (well, other than the much higher taxes, those were a given) that the Congress-made mess called sequestration would have wrought.
Rubio took what, on the surface, appears to be the boldest stance as one of eight Senators (five Republicans) who voted against the bailout compromise. Rubio said after the vote that “rapid economic growth and spending reforms are the only way out” from under the economic calamity that has held the nation in its grip for the better part of the last eight years.
Ryan, whose ultra-conservative economic reform package was all the rage before he and Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful bid for the White House, voted to support the compromise measure that eventually won approval, saying the legislation was “better than the alternative.”
“Despite my concerns, I commend my colleagues for limiting the damage as much as possible,” Ryan said.
Tea party darling Paul also voted against the measure, but his anti-status quo stance is seen as less a bold statement, more an expected bow to the fringe element of the conservative electorate. He would have made news only by voting in favor of any measure that had the approval of the Obama administration.
While many say this one seemingly innocuous vote some two weeks before Obama is even scheduled to take the oath of office that starts his second term will long have escaped Americans’ memories by the time the 2016 campaign kicks off (some time in mid-2013 I’d guess), there is reason to believe the men who have already expressed interest in presidential runs cast their votes with their eyes on a much bigger prize.
And they have a pretty compelling example of how well such a tactic works in the man who’s about to start his second term in office.
When Congress voted to go to war with Iraq in the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, then-Sen. Barack Obama was outspoken in his opposition to American involvement in Iraq. He was soundly criticized at the time, but by the time George Bush limped out of office with one of the lowest approval ratings in the history of the presidency and a nation overwhelmingly opposed to continued fighting in a war justified through fabricated misinformation, Obama used his anti-war stance to his advantage. (Incidentally, Colin Powell has certainly been given a pass for his revisionist take on his role in spreading that misinformation.)
Obama then turned the tables during the 2008 primary season — and many say actually won the Democratic nomination — by constantly reminding voters weary of war that it was he, not opponent Hillary Clinton, who’d had the courage to oppose the war from the beginning. (It should be noted that Obama also claimed during the campaign that if he was elected, he would have all U.S. troops home within 16 months.)
It’s not too difficult to imagine Rubio using that same tactic while battling for the GOP nomination: “I was against that fiscal cliff compromise from the beginning.” Of course, for that to work in his favor — and for Rubio to throw Ryan’s vote in his face — the American economy is going to have to continue to struggle, and Congress is going to have to continue to approach its duty in the same inept manner that it has over the better part of the last decade.
At least that last part of the equation sounds like a pretty safe bet.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at email@example.com.