MESSAGE DISCIPLINE! Remember...

MESSAGE DISCIPLINE! Remember the Republicans' once legendary capacity for staying collectively on-message and coordinating their talking points? Yesterday, Bush administration officials and GOP senators hit the Sunday chat shows to talk up the party�s bold new steps to address rising gas prices. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman showed up on Meet the Press and, in nearly the same breath, described the President�s plan to suspend contributions to the strategic petroleum reserve as �an effort to ... make a contribution to the reduction of price� while also pointing out that �the movement of prices is a function of the, the supply and demand as we�ve already talked about and it is not something that is, I think, going to be meaningfully affected by whatever happens to the strategic reserve.� (�[I]t�s a modest effort, it is a symbolic effort,� he elaborated helpfully.) On Fox News Sunday, White House chief of staff Josh Bolten enthused that his boss�s plan to tackle the gas price surge would have a �relatively modest� effect. Meanwhile, Republican senators fanned out across the chat shows to tout their leader Bill Frist�s refreshingly blunt plan to pay Americans $100 each to stop whining about gas prices. Trent Lott told Wolf Blitzer that �I don't think much about the $100 rebate,� while Lisa Murkowski told Bob Scheiffer (PDF) that �I don't think it's a real answer." Frist must have been thankful. (Meanwhile, the subject of a windfall profits tax on oil companies came up; Bodman said it was a terrible idea, Lott said it might be a good idea.)

Subscription-only CQ reports today that K Street is revolting against Frist�s proposal to pay for the $100 rebate checks through the repeal of a business accounting procedure known as LIFO that companies rely on to reduce their tax liability in times of rising prices. Nonetheless, Frist is considering adding this energy plan onto the very Iraq supplemental bill that�s already stalling due to intra-GOP disputes over earmarks.

It may not be the "responsible" thing to do, but those moments when a governing party ties itself in knots attempting to politically engage a genuinely difficult and long-term policy problem are precisely the moments when an opposition party interested in playing serious politics can go in for the kill.

--Sam Rosenfeld

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