Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pick Your Battles

Last night, President Barack Obama held his first state dinner, a glitzy affair with dignitaries from across the country, across party lines, and around the world. With the economy still not fully recovered, conservatives took this opportunity to criticize the President.

But I won't be one of them.

To me, state dinners are a function of the Presidency, falling under the auspices of "Diplomat In Chief." Regardless of who is running the country, regardless of the state of the economy, these state dinners are important to establishing or maintaining good relations with foreign countries. I won't begrudge Obama one bit for having a state dinner. Some of the other stuff, like "date nights" using Air Force One and midweek cocktail parties, is a little harder to justify under the "Diplomat In Chief" designation.

There is a real political danger for conservatives if they decide to take Obama to task for the lavishness of his first state dinner: they risk coming off as petty at a time when they need to appear principled. Democrats have pinned Republicans with a "Party of No" tag, and Republicans haven't done much, if anything, to shrug it off. Attacking Obama for the state dinner reinforces the "Party of No" image by making the GOP appear negative.

And let me point out one more thing. The midterm elections are next year, and Republicans don't have everything locked up yet. If they want to get back into power in Congress, they're going to have to learn to find a balance between being silent dissenters and raging lunatics. Republicans need a strategic thinker who is articulate enough to make the right point at the right time. Until then, they need to learn to pick their battles so they don't look like partisan jerks complaining about trifles.

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