03/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The GOP News Cycle Strategy

I agree with Yglesias that the Republican strategy of the moment, such as it is, is very much a short-term, win-the-news cycle approach: oppose Obama, make a lot of noise, and hope something sticks with the public and sparks a comeback. In fact, it's very much like the John McCain campaign, which did a great job, for a while anyway, at commanding the gaze of the media with outrageous statements and stunts, but lacked a coherent policy argument for his candidacy.

So: the GOP "won" yesterday with Judd Gregg's pulling the plug on his own nomination. It sort of "wins" when Republican members of Congress rebuff Obama's overtures and give him no votes on key bills, which spark the usual raft of stories about how Obama has failed in his quest for Republican votes. As it did during the campaign, the media effectively cooperate in this effort, because the GOP gives good soundbites and provides the conflict that plays well on the cable shows and feeds a million blog posts.

As Eve Fairbanks wrote earlier this week:

They're completely obsessed with winning the media "cycle" and getting the sexiest, most provocative quotes on TV, an attitude that yields the kind of overblown dreck RNC chair Michael Steele is now spouting. This obsession was born, I think, during last summer's drilling fight with Nancy Pelosi in the House, which Republicans cite constantly as the moment that will someday be recognized as the beginning of their rebirth, their A.D. 0: They mounted a lot of antics, their brazenly hyperbolic rhetoric ended up all over the news, and a frightened Pelosi backed down. When I talked to a number of conservatives for a story on the future of the congressional GOP, many -- Marsha Blackburn, Louie Gohmert, Republican Study Committee chair Tom Price -- explained to me that the energy fight had proven this to them: The GOP lost power due to a failure to communicate its ideas. "Communication" was the it word within the minority. "We need to improve the ways we communicate," Price told me, reminiscing about the drilling battle: "It [the energy fight] was spontaneous, it was different, it captured the public's attention. We made clear we were passionate."

It sounds old fashioned, but the best way to win enduring political popularity -- which after all is what parties most prize -- is to propose real solutions to the problems we face and get them passed. That doesn't mean caving into the other side. But it does mean engaging with it and addressing the issues. Obviously, that's very difficult for what remains of Republican Party, which is not exactly brimming with new ideas, and whose old ideas don't exactly harmonize with the president's. But what we're hearing out of the GOP this week - Judd Gregg is a folk hero! -- isn't the kind of thing that the public responds to. The public doesn't even know who the frack Judd Gregg is.

Unfortunately, world of Washington and the political media also buy into this kind of artificial drama -- after all, it's their artificial drama too. But Obama never did during the campaign, and it seemed to work pretty well for him.