The Pa. GOP is great at outrage. But does it actually have a message? | Tuesday Morning Coffee

May 14, 2019 7:22 am

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

There must be something in the water at Republican State Committee, because there seems to be an awful lot of rage burbling out of the rococo confines of 112 State Street these days.

At least several times a week, we’re treated to an email blast that finds state GOP Chairman Val DiGiorgio shaking his fists at the heavens over some fresh offense against the electorate.

Such was the case on Monday, when DiGiorgio roused himself from his Cheshire County aerie to rage against both Rep. Brian Sims’ undeniably unprofessional and offensive antics outside a Philly Planned Parenthood office, and the imminent arrival of Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren in the Keystone State.

On Monday, DiGiorgio took the Dems to task for not scolding Sims by name during an unusual public shaming on the House floor. Sims behavior toward the women who were quietly protesting outside Planned Parenthood was “outrageous” and “despicable (no doubt) and “potentially criminal” (possibly), he charged.

“The first step in achieving a return to appropriate and respectable civil discourse is a public acknowledgement by leaders that Rep. Sims’ conduct is beyond the pale and has gone too far,” DiGiorgio offered.

And he’s not wrong. Sims’ behavior was awful. And the public scolding was weak all around — including the one by House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster. Notably, DiGiorgio did not make a similar demand of the GOP floor boss, even though there’s been plenty of awful Republican behavior of late.

Anyhoo, that press release came barely 30 minutes after the GOP blasted out a “prebuttal” to Warren’s stop in Philadelphia.

In an amusingly disjointed statement, DiGiorgio, via state party spokesman Jason Gottesman, not only wondered whether Warren had “ever taken a course in economics,” but he also mused on whether Warren’s support for the Green New Deal also meant that she “supports the recent despicable actions by Rep. Brian Sims when he harassed, intimidated, and bullied those peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights in front of a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood clinic.”

Howzat again? Amazing someone didn’t tear a rhetorical rotator cuff with that one.

In the last week, the GOP has blasted out four emails demanding both a full apology from Sims and a criminal investigation into whether he might have tried to dox some of the protesters.

Those were among the 16 press releases the GOP has blasted out on various and sundry topics since April 25. By our count, 10 of the 16 releases since April 25 have been rage-releases directly critical of Democrats.

That includes one denouncing state Rep. Danielle Friel Otten’s utterly ill-conceived decision to call union pipeline workers (who probably helped get her elected) “Nazis.” She later apologized.

DiGiorgio called on Otten to resign over those comments — which seems a tad much, particularly when we could not locate a similar press release calling on House Speaker Mike Turzai to resign after he compared abortion-rights supporters to “the Nazi regime” in early April.

Which leads us to our next point. Based on this buffet of sturm und drang, we have a full picture of what Republicans are against: Brian Sims (like, a lot); Danielle Friel Otten (also a bunch); Joe Biden (a fair bit) Elizabeth Warren (incoherently), and Eugene DePasquale(to be fair, he does hold a ridiculously unnecessary amount of press conferences, so they have a point.).

But what, exactly, are they for?

We found one statement bragging about the Trump tax cuts. And two more touting judicial candidates whose own mothers are probably unaware they’re running for office this year.

We get that these statements are all about ginning up the base and keeping stories alive long past their sell-by dates (Yes, Democrats do it too, and we’ve written about that, before you get all WhatAboutist on us).

But the preponderance of GOP shade suggests two things:

First, it’s beyond official confirmation that the relatively genteel GOP of the Alan Novak/Rob Gleason years is long gone; replaced by one in full thrall to Trumpian bluster.

Second, if elections are all about making an affirmative argument for your qualifications; ability to lead, and capacity to govern, the endless subtweeting and shade leads us to conclude that the GOP is in need of some serious message discipline heading into a 2020 cycle where the Pennsylvania outcome could well determine who ends up in the White House.

Republicans tried shade in 2018. There are now nine Democrats in Congress; more in the state House; and the state Senate is one Killion or so away from going blue.

Maybe some hot yoga will help.

Our Stuff:
This morning, we’re still exploring the idea of due process and how it intersects with state government — from legislation to investigations of state lawmakers. Have a thought? Let us know at [email protected].

Stephen Caruso leads our coverage this morning with a look at state Rep. Todd Stephens’ push for extreme risk protection orders aimed at reducing gun violence — and why some believe such laws make mincemeat of due process.

On our Commentary Page, a University of California scholar looks at the public’s perceptions of the #MeToo movement and what that says about the nation.

Also on our Commentary Page, state Rep. Liz Hanbidge, D-Montgomeryexplains her unusual protest during last week’s debate over a restrictive abortion-ban bill.

In this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket, we take a look at the state of the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania. New data shows some progress. But there’s still a long way to go.

And President Donald Trump will return to Pennsylvania. He’s campaigning in Lycoming County next Monday, May 20. That’s the day before the special election in the 12th Congressional District and two days after Joe Biden rallies the troops in Philadelphia.

The Inquirer explains why New Jersey could soon overtake Vegas as the home of sports betting.
The Post-Gazette looks at the looming fight in Harrisburg over who controls access to guns.
PennLive has the results of a state House vote approving the Pennsylvania GI Bill.
The Allentown mayoral candidates faced off in a televised debate. The Morning Call has the story.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

WHYY-FM has your clip-and-save guide to the largest field of Philadelphia City Council candidates in 40 years.
Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro will sue a major drug manufacturer for helping to fuel the opioid epidemicThe Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).
BillyPenn has five takeaways from Monday’s Philly mayoral debate.
The Incline’s Rossilynne Culgan is out with a new book100 Things to do in Pittsburgh Before You Die. 
Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg is dropping a cool $1 million on a super-PACbacking Philly Mayor Jim KenneyPoliticsPA reports.
Politico explains how the race for the White House changed after Joe Biden entered the field. 

What Goes On.
The House gavels in at 11 a.m, as is its custom.
11:30 a.m., East Rotunda: Rep. Tarah Toohil 
talks about Foster Care Month.
12 p.m., Main Rotunda: YMCA Advocacy Day (please God, please, let there be a dance).
1:30 p.m., Main Rotunda: ALS Awareness Day event.
2:30 p.m., Main Rotunda: Rally to protect access to care, dealing with the UPMC/Highmark extended divorce.

Gov. Tom Wolf
 has no public schedule.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
8 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Jerry Knowles
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Jerry Mullery
8 a.m.: Reception for Rep. Bob Merski
10 a.m.: Reception for Rep. Jim Cox
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a mere $6,800 today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s the new one from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. It’s the surprisingly dance-y “Black Star Dancing.” It has a very Hot Chip/MGMT sort of feel to it.

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
St. Louis evened up its Western Conference final with San Jose on Monday night, notching a 4-2 win in Game 2.  The Eastern Conference series between Carolina and Boston resumes tonight with Game 3 in Raleigh. The Bruins are up 2-0. Carolina is undefeated on its home ice this playoff season.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.