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Democrats' New Strategy: Keep the Same Leaders, Defend Their Bad Legislation (Updated)

There’s a somewhat hackneyed definition of insanity regarding doing the same thing over and over again, expecting to get a different result.  I won’t tie that definition directly to the disturbingly perpetual grin worn by the Democrats’ former speaker of the House, but it may be worth tying it to this amusing story in the New York Times.  They’re the newspaper of record, ya know.

Democratic leaders in Washington plan to spend the next week doing what they all but refused to do in the 2010 midterm elections: mount a vigorous defense of President Obama’s health care legislation.

The “all fronts” plan is a response to the decision by the new House speaker, John A. Boehner, to schedule a vote next Wednesday on a complete repeal of the health care law that Mr. Obama signed last March.

Senior Democratic officials said their effort would be managed by a rapid response operation modeled after the ones Mr. Obama used in his presidential campaign. That team will monitor Republican claims, send out fact-checks and deploy a team of surrogates to get their views on television.

If you caught any of Wednesday’s coverage of the opening of the 112th Congress, you saw this strategy’s first road test, and who is likely to be its standard bearer.  After her odd, self-serving parting speech, Rep. Nancy Pelosi stayed farther away from TV cameras than she usually does.  In her place, on every network I happened to catch, was Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, of Florida.

Schultz is arguably the best the Beltway Democrats have at the moment.  She presents a younger face than either Pelosi or minority leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, and isn’t as odd or disconnected from reality as Sen. Harry Reid.  She is no less of an ideologue than her party’s leaders, though, and she has certainly learned to throw a few pitches doing minor league duty appearing on every MSNBC show nearly every day over the past couple of years.  It remains to be seen whether Chris Matthews’, Ed Schultz’s, Keith Olbermann’s and Rachel Maddow’s left-handed slow pitch game is enough to get Wasserman-Schultz ready to go up against Speaker Boehner and his leadership team, or against the faster, less predictable pitching she’ll face from the Right’s talk radio and social media.  When I was producing for the Laura Ingraham Show a couple of years ago, Wasserman-Schultz was obscure enough that we hardly paid any attention to her at all.  If she does turn out to be the congressional Democrats’ new lead spokeswoman, that will change, and quickly.  Whether she fills that role or not, the Democrats have in fact kept the exact same leadership team that earned them the November shellacking.  And says the Times, they’re set to defend ObamaCare with a vigorous PR campaign.  There’s no “out with the old, in with the new” with these folks.  It’s just “in with the old, and still in with the old.”

One of their chief strategies will most likely rely on old talking points.  Wasserman-Schultz on Wednesday consistently hit the theme that repealing ObamaCare will increase the deficit, and putting repeal as a priority betrays a GOP lack of focus on jobs and the economy.  She cited the Congressional Budget Office numbers on the deficit talk, and nothing at all on the jobs and the economy talk.  As to that, it’s rich for any Democrat who was part of the year long, all out effort to pass ObamaCare over the objections of the American people to speak of anyone else’s alleged lack of focus on jobs now.  As to the CBO numbers, they were rigged to get the Democrats the result that they wanted.  And after the mammoth law’s passage, the CBO itself came out with revisions showing that, um, ObamaCare isn’t quite the wonderful piece of legislation that the Democrats wanted the public to think it was.

Republicans should welcome the Democrats’ renewed defense of ObamaCare.  The Democrats couldn’t run it in 2010 out of fear that doing so would have made the shellacking bigger (and they were probably right about that).  If they mount a full defense of it now, they’re betraying the fact that they knew it was a legislative albatross, and that the voters don’t really like it, but they’re hoping the voters forget why they oppose it.  Republicans not only have those easy talking points, but a lot of data to use in defense of repeal.  Point one, if ObamaCare is so great for the economy, then why has unemployment failed to improve since it was passed?  And point two, it’s a budget buster of epic proportions (according to the CBO’s head, Doug Elmendorf) that threatens both the federal and state budgets, and according to the Heritage Foundation, threatens small businesses and doctors.  That in turn threatens the entire health care system, and the entire economy.  Point out every time another insurer hikes rates and cites ObamaCare as the cause.  Let Wasserman-Schultz handle that Cliff Lee-esque barrage.

So I say, pass the repeal in the House.  Let Harry Reid chew on a Senate version.  Let President Obama, who has already spent 339 of his days in the presidency traveling, policy-selling and other assorted duties (golfing, choosing a dog, vacationing, etc), now spend time on the defensive justifying ObamaCare, again.  And then, the Republicans should attack ObamaCare piecemeal until it is torn out root and branch, even while they work on getting government even farther out of the way of families and businesses.  Hopefully, the Democrats will squeal the whole time.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent has posted a link to the Democrats’ actual talking points.  Its second paragraph is a howler.

The Affordable Care Act provides Americans with more freedom and control in their health care choices.

So the individual mandate is about providing more freedom?  Only in an Orwellian “freedom is slavery” sense.  Want another howler?  Ok–

It frees Americans from the fear of insurance companies raising premiums by double digits with no recourse or accountability.

Oh, really?  The talking points memo’s author needs to take a look at this story:

Another big California health insurer has stunned individual policyholders with huge rate increases — this time it’s Blue Shield of California seeking cumulative hikes of as much as 59% for tens of thousands of customers March 1.

Blue Shield’s action comes less than a year after Anthem Blue Cross tried and failed to raise rates as much as 39% for about 700,000 California customers.

San Francisco-based Blue Shield said the increases were the result of fast-rising healthcare costs and other expenses resulting from new healthcare laws.

ObamaCare isn’t protection from soaring rates, it’s now the major cause of soaring rates.  There’s more truthiness in those talking points.  Pick your favorite.

Keep a link to the Dems’ talking points handy, especially if you wander into MSNBC programming.  You’re likely to hear these points repeated over and over and over again.  They might make a fun drinking game if you’re an adherent of the Vodkapundit lifestyle.

Update: I just noticed this post over at Big Government.  Andrew Marcus has a sample of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s attempts at punditry.