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Be Careful What You Wish For, John Boehner

So, the Republicans want a rebuttal to President Obama’s big health care speech next Wednesday. A “balanced perspective,” John Boehner says, can “only be achieved” by a response on network television from one of their own. There are two strange elements to this approach.

One is the brouhaha Republicans made shortly after Obama’s election about the apparently nonexistent attempt to revive the Fairness Doctrine, which cropped up again just last month. It’s not unreasonable to ask for a little airtime after the President has his say, but the righteous request for equal billing seems a little hollow after you’ve been beating the drum to oppose to oppose the principle behind it.

The other, larger issue is: Why? Has a rebuttal speech ever moved the dial on any big policy initiative? Bobby Jindal’s experience, and those of countless others, would suggest the opposite. Moreover, the Republicans are already winning the sound bite war without their leaders risking the embarrassment of a prime-time flop. The anti-reform movement is also an anti-government movement; politicians shouldn’t be leading the charge. Rather, the battle is being waged most successfully by right-wing pundits and on-the-ground agitators—Mr. Boehner would be well-advised to sit back and let them do their work.