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The New York Times examines the GOP's messaging report and finds it lacking:
The report, for example, says that Republicans have “a lot in common” with African-Americans, and should hire more black communications directors and make more of an effort to draw black voters. It doesn’t mention, however, that Republican lawmakers across the country have avidly passed laws that make it harder for blacks and other minorities to vote, as part of an effort to reduce the turnout of Democrats. Repudiating these measures should be high on the list of any party that claims to be interested in “outreach” to minorities.

It talks about “developing a forward-leaning vision for voting Republican that appeals to women,” without ever using the words “abortion” or “birth control” or even hinting that the party’s policies on these issues have repelled women by the millions. [...] The report should be commended for urging more tolerant policies on immigration and gay issues (though it is hardly specific). But the party will have to move much farther from its extremist tendencies if it hopes to expand its appeal in the long term.

Doyle McManus at The Los Angeles Times thinks the attempt to "autopsy" the GOP's election failures is laudable but not enough:
The report is nothing less than a cry of revolt against Republican orthodoxy — by the Republican establishment. But will it carry sway with the rank and file?

Not with radio pundit Rush Limbaugh. His response was to dismiss the RNC as "totally bamboozled." [...] Columnist Mona Charen wrote that the RNC sounded "a little desperate." "Does the GOP have a death wish?" asked the deep-thinking Donald Trump, referring to immigration reform. [...]

The report in effect divided the GOP into two parties: a pragmatic party that wants to figure out a way to win elections, and an ideological party of conservative true believers who would rather hang tough than take the easy route to put a Republican in the White House.

More on Republicans in disarray below the fold.

The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart:

“We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too,” the GOP report notes. “We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities. But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters.” Exactly. But Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus didn’t do the cause of party renewal any favors when he said, “I think our policies are sound.” Dana Milbank correctly called this the “Grand Old Punt.”
It’s one thing to diagnose the problem. It’s another to do something about it. And right now, after what we saw at the Conservative Political Action Conference and what we will continue to see from the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz and others on Capitol Hill, I’m not convinced the Republican Party will be ready any time soon to go after the votes it left on the table in 2012.
Walter Shapiro writes at Yahoo! about the sideshow that was CPAC:
In an era when every politician is a robotic follower of message discipline, CPAC was riotously off-message. The chief reason for the thematic disarray was that most prominent Republicans simply do not agree on the long-term message to offer that will help them win presidential elections. [...]

[T]he party does need redefinition. This is not just my conclusion from the press box, but also the interpretation offered across the conservative spectrum at CPAC.

Sure, Sarah Palin won the sound bite wars with her shrill call to “furlough the consultants” and send “the architect” back to Texas -- a thinly veiled swipe at Karl Rove.

But the party’s problems are much deeper than its failure to match Barack Obama’s 2012 voter-targeting effort. Put simply, Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections – and four of those contests weren’t close.

LZ Granderson at CNN:
[I]f Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and his cohorts are really serious about bringing minorities into their big tent, they need to do more than massage the party's message. They need to do more than rethink its policies. They have to be honest about who is in their tent already.[...] I applaud the effort of the RNC's 98-page Growth and Opportunity Project report. But it's hard to characterize it as an honest assessment of the party when it doesn't include the words "racism," "racists" or "racist" in it. How can this so-called "autopsy" be accurate when it doesn't include the cause of death?
Switching topics, the Democrats' gun control bill won't include an assault weapons ban. David Firestone at The New York Times gives his take:
Gun-control groups do not consider the assault weapons ban a top priority, and have instead focused their attention on a universal background check requirement. That is likely to remain in the official bill, along with limits on gun trafficking, although even the background-checks provision is having trouble drawing sufficient Republican support.

Nonetheless, the dismissal of the assault weapons ban shows the power that gun lobbies like the National Rifle Association continue to hold over senior Democrats, including Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, who made the decision. The contrast to the political courage displayed by the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, could not be more clear.

Defying outrage from Republicans and gun lobbyists, Mr. Hickenlooper is planning to sign on Wednesday a ban on magazines greater than 15 rounds, along with a background-check bill. Colorado has a large population of gun owners, and Mr. Hickenlooper is up for re-election next year. But the state has also seen more than its share of gun violence, and he decided to take a stand on something important, whatever the political cost. Senate Democrats look timid in comparison.

The Star-Ledger editorial board:
“The enemies on this are very powerful, I’ve known that all my life,” Feinstein told the Washington Post.

Somewhere, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA is smiling.

Katrina vanden Heuvel highlights the progressive budget in her Washington Post piece:
As blogger Bill Scher argues, “the Progressive Caucus holds an unfair advantage: It includes policies the public actually supports.” In a sane world, that would be enough to earn the Back to Work Budget equal time with Ryan’s latest slash-fest. Instead, if past is prologue, the Progressive Caucus alternative will be covered as an afterthought at best.

It doesn’t have to be that way. When all-too-savvy reporters dismiss reasonable ideas as doomed fantasies, they do the public a disservice. When they shower right-wing pseudo-wonkery with the air of seriousness, they make it that much worse. (There are praiseworthy exceptions to the trend,including the New York Times’ Paul Krugman and The Post’s Ezra Klein, who called the Progressive Caucus budget the “correct counterpart to the unbridled ambition of the Ryan budget.”)

This week, both budgets will likely get a vote in the House. The truth is, neither Ryan’s budget nor that of the Progressive Caucus stands a chance of being passed into law as is. But each is an attempt to shift U.S. policy — and national discussion — in a different direction. Since too much of the Inside the Beltway media keep treating Ryan’s budget as a serious blueprint, it falls to the rest of us to break open Washington’s all-too narrowly-framed debate.

Yesterday's abbreviated pundit roundup featured analysis about the ten-year anniversary of the Iraq War. Here's the NYT's take:
Iraq is a reminder of the need for political leaders to ask the right questions before allowing military action and to listen honestly rather than acting on ideological or political impulses. Mr. Bush led the war, but Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress endorsed it. Iraq also shows the limits of America’s influence in regions where sectarian enmity remains strong and where democracy has no real history.

That experience is informing American policy judgments more generally. It has affected decisions about Syria, where President Obama has been right to move cautiously. For a long time the Syrian opposition was divided, and it was hard to know which group, if any, deserved help. It also made sense not to rush into another costly war in another Arab country that could fuel new anti-American animosities and embroil the United States for another decade.

And here's another NYT editorial on "Iraq's fragile future."

Meanwhile, Paul Rieckhoff at MSNBC brings attention to the plight of America's veterans:

Last week, an investigative report revealed that red tape at the VA has left young vets in New York waiting over 600 days for benefits and care. It’s 619 days in Los Angeles. The average waiting period in almost every major city is over 500 days. Returning vets filing claims for the first time are waiting on average 316 to 327 days for a decision. That’s almost an entire year that vets may have to pay medical costs out of pocket for injuries incurred during their service. That’s almost an entire year that veterans too disabled to work are living with no income.

Despite spending almost a billion taxpayer dollars developing a digital claims process, 97% of claims are still on paper. In fact, at one regional VA office in North Carolina, the weight of the paper files for claims was so enormous that it affected the structural integrity of the building. That’s ridiculous.

But through it all, our newest veterans have hope. Ten years after Iraq, they can see a brighter day. Because they won’t accept failure. They are hard-wired to get things done and to break through partisanship and bureaucracy. And to win.

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