op-ed

Solving the GOP’s Tiger problem

Cameron Lynch Contributor

Tiger Woods, the world’s most famous athlete, officially returns to professional golf at The Masters this week in Augusta, Ga. In the wake of horrific infidelity scandals, sex addiction treatment and questions about if and how Woods would ever return to the game, Woods delivered his first (unscripted) press conference to a media corps licking their chops to skewer him on Monday.

No such luck for the paparazzi wolves.

Poised and apologetic, Woods projected genuine concern for his family, the tournament and the game of golf during his 45-minute statement. No one can or should defend Woods’ reprehensible personal conduct. His family, sponsors and fans deserve much better. Even the golfer’s harshest critics, however, agree that the best remedy for Woods is now to focus on healing his family in private and do what he does best in public: play golf.

Perhaps some top Republicans should hire Tiger’s PR team.

In an election year more sympathetic to Republicans than any since 1994, the GOP continues to commit unnecessary “off the course” blunders that can only handicap the party’s chances come November if they continue to go unchecked.

The Las Vegas Sun reported today that Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) faces intense scrutiny based on his business and political dealings with an alleged mistress. This scrutiny could very likely, the Sun reports, result in an indictment. Congressional sex scandals, sadly, are nothing new, but in a twist far-fetched even for a John Grishman novel, the alleged other woman was the wife of Ensign’s chief aide. Even better, Ensign allegedly asked his parents to foot the bill so the payment would not appear on official Senate records.

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele didn’t have the best media cycle last week either. In a story broken by The Daily Caller, receipts from a recent RNC “Young Eagles” gathering in Los Angeles show the committee reimbursed a donor almost $2,000 for an “event” at a bondage themed strip club in West Hollywood. Steele (who was on an airplane back from Hawaii at the time of the event) claims no knowledge of or approval authority over the event. Yet Steele is now spinning for his political life, even going so far as to claim that many of the attacks against him are rooted in racism.

Finally, (sadly, we could go on) who can forget South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s famed Appalachian Trail hiking trip and the cover-up that ensued when it was discovered he was, in fact, visiting an Argentinean mistress? Once considered among the frontrunners for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, Sanford has been relegated to a dour regional figure who garners little praise even from his former Palmetto State confidants.

Why, might you ask, as loyal Republicans, should we dwell on these dreadful missteps by prominent party officials? Because, quite simply, this tabloid worthy activity is obstructing what should be the GOP’s only focus—winning back the American public on critical public policy issues.

In a country that continues to champion center-right principles, some Republican officials appear content to squander what amounts to a golden political opportunity. In only 14 months, President Obama and the Democratic Congress have mandated new spending that could likely bankrupt our great-grandchildren. Iran (if it hasn’t already) is days away from producing a nuclear weapon. Congress and the President have set their sites on financial regulatory reform that could stifle American global competiveness. This flurry of big government activism is occurring, almost every major poll concludes, against the wishes of the majority of Americans.

Thankfully, there are some thoughtful members of the GOP focused on addressing these important problems. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) are among the most noteworthy who employ a serious but measured tone to governance. You won’t find either of them at Voyeur, but instead, where they should be, in their congressional offices hammering out legislation or back in their states listening to their constituents.

If the GOP is to achieve its much heralded electoral pick up in November (the non-partisan Cook Political Report currently projects the GOP netting between 25 and 35 House seats), party leaders and officials need to hone their messages, employ some image control and stop committing foolish personal gaffes. In other words, go out and do what Tiger will do this week at Augusta—signal a definitive end to the destructively juvenile antics and swing away.

In both instances, it’s what the public wants.

Cameron Lynch is a former aide to three Republican Senators and president of The Lynch Group, LLC, a Republican government affairs and political consulting firm.