Kristol’s advice sounds familiar

KRISTOL’S ADVICE SOUNDS FAMILIAR…. In his inaugural column for the print edition of the Washington Post, Bill Kristol offers some advice for his Republican brethren: obstruct as much as humanly possible.

…Obama’s aim is not merely to “revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.” … Conservatives and Republicans will disapprove of this effort. They will oppose it. Can they do so effectively?

Perhaps — if they can find reasons to obstruct and delay. They should do their best not to permit Obama to rush his agenda through this year. They can’t allow Obama to make of 2009 what Franklin Roosevelt made of 1933 or Johnson of 1965. Slow down the policy train. Insist on a real and lengthy debate. Conservatives can’t win politically right now. But they can raise doubts…. Only if this happens will conservatives be able to get a hearing for their (compelling, in my view) arguments against big-government, liberal-nanny-state social engineering — and for their preferred alternatives.

It seems like an odd thing for Kristol to put in writing. Generally, Republicans say they want to at least try to have a constructive role in public policy. Kristol counsels the opposite — Obama is poised to “make history,” so Republicans need to “obstruct and delay.” The GOP, Kristol insists, needs to “find reasons” to do. Obstruct for obstruction’s sake, and figure out the rationale later.

What’s striking is how predictable Kristol’s advice has become. This was the strategy Kristol recommended during the fight over the economic recovery package, and more importantly, it was the advice he offered Republicans in the early 1990s, when they confronted the Clinton White House. Indeed, in December 1993, Kristol wrote a strategy memo to congressional Republicans, urging them to “kill” any effort at healthcare reform — “sight unseen” — because it would help the Democratic Party.

Jonathan Chait noted this morning, “His current advice is equally disingenuous. Kristol is saying that Republicans should raise objections about the speed of legislation, pick fights, point to foreign policy — but not because they actually care about the speed of the legislative process or the other fights they’re going to pick. It will all be a pretext to stop Obama’s agenda. Is this the kind of thing he should be admitting in public?”

Probably not. The minority party is going to oppose the majority party’s ideas. That’s expected; it’s what the minority party is supposed to do. But Kristol’s advice helps end the charade — Republicans, if they take the columnist’s advice, won’t play a constructive role and won’t make good-faith compromises to advance a policy agenda.

That’s largely in line with expectations, but it’s nevertheless interesting to see in print.