Insiders Like Boehner's Initial Tone, Blame Media for Tone of Discourse
What grade [A, B, C, D or F] would you give Republicans in their transition to the majority in the House?
Insiders in both parties give Republicans relatively high marks for the GOP transition to power in the House of Representatives, according to this week's National Journal Political Insiders Poll. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) earned unusual bipartisan credit for deftly managing his new majority and the tone he set. And while some also criticized him for not attending the Tucson memorial for the victims in the Arizona shooting, his personal style overall won praise.
"Boehner kept it real, got his troops in line, calmly spoke to everyday people about being a 'regular guy with a big job,' and put forth some symbolically effective measures," said a Democratic Insider. "Even the tears were appealing to a lot of people."
Republicans also focused on the contrast between Boehner's transition and those of two of his predecessors, Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.). "Unlike the start of the Gingrich and Pelosi eras, John Boehner has made the start of the new session of Congress about the success of the institution rather than a personal coronation," said a GOP Insider. Echoed another, "Boehner and [Majority Leader Eric] Cantor (R-Va.) avoid overexposure; no one hates them--sharp contrast to Gingrich and company."
The marks were not dissimilar to those that Democrats earned for their transition after they took over the House and the Senate following the 2006 midterm elections. At that time Democratic Insiders gave the Democratic transition an average grade of 'B' and Republican Insiders gave it an average grade of 'C+.' Ironically, back in January 2007, Republican Insiders criticized Democrats for not allowing congressional Republicans the chance to offer alternatives on the initial legislation that the new Democratic majority moved. That was also a complaint from Democratic Insiders this week on the House Republican move to repeal healthcare reform. What goes around comes around.
|Who has the most influence over the quality of political discourse?|
|All the above (volunteered)||0%||1%|
|President Obama (volunteered)||0%||1%|
|Politicians and the media (volunteered)||4%||1%|
There was an even stronger bipartisan Insider consensus this week on who has the most influence over the quality of political discourse: the media earned that dubious honor. Republican and Democratic Insiders alike said that the media determines who gets airtime and that they give disproportionate play to provocative and extreme voices in pursuit of higher ratings. Cable television and radio talk shows were singled out for criticism. "They control the traffic and drive the dialogue; the public and politicians just ride along," said a Democratic Insider. "The media's currency is conflict," added another. And a GOP Insider observed, "They determine specifically what to emphasize and inevitably they always take an anthill and make a mountain out of it."
The public and politicians were also held culpable. "Ultimately, the only people who control what comes out of a politician's mouth are the politicians," noted a Democratic Insider. And a GOP Insider said of the public: "In the end, they vote and select the channel."