About seven months into the new Congress, House Republicans don't have much to show for 2013, at least not yet. They've passed no major bills; they're on track to be the least productive since historians started keeping track; and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he wants to be judged by how many laws he repeals -- a figure that currently totals zero.
Given this, it stands to reason that House GOP members will be a little concerned about a cool reception when they return to their home districts during the four-week August recess. After all, Congress hasn't been this chronically unpopular since the dawn of modern polling, and lawmakers probably shouldn't expect a hero's welcome.
But the House Republican Conference intends to help with an "exceptionally detailed" guide for its members on how best to survive the rest of the summer. It's a doozy.
The August House Republican Conference planning kit, titled "Fighting Washington for All Americans," offers a rare glimpse into the constituent outreach efforts of the GOP. Those efforts, it turns out, are highly calculated, hashtag-heavy and rife with references to the video app Vine.The best way to stay in Washington appears to be to deride Washington, and Republican leadership isn't going to deviate from that familiar formula.
To that end, the "planning kit" focuses on, among other things, a "fierce hatred of all things Washington."
I'm no political strategist, but wouldn't this be a more effective tactic if, say, Republicans weren't the majority party in the House of Representatives? When GOP officials whine incessantly about those bums on Capitol Hill, do they realize that John Boehner is the Speaker and Eric Cantor is the Majority Leader? If they spend four weeks in August condemning the powers that be inside the Beltway, has it occurred to them they're among those with power?
A similar point came up a couple of weeks ago, when Boehner insisted Americans "don't trust a Democratic-controlled Washington." This would arguably be a less foolish talking point if Boehner, still holding the Speaker's gavel, wasn't one of the most powerful people in Washington.
But wait, the "planning kit" gets even funnier.
Among the other tidbits:
* The House Republican Conference is apparently preoccupied with Vine, a social-media tool that allows users to create and easily share six-second videos. Good luck, House GOP, on solving your problems six seconds at a time.
* Members are being encouraged to publish op-eds in local media on the IRS "scandal." That there is no IRS "scandal," and all of the allegations Republicans raised have been discredited, has apparently been deemed irrelevant.
* According to the Roll Call piece, the Conference "suggests planting questions" at local events "to get the conversation rolling in the right direction."
* And House Republicans are encouraged to go on an "Energy Production Facility Tour" during the recess. Members, of course, have been told to "wear a hard hat" and -- you guessed it -- put this and other events on Vine.
What could possibly go wrong?