Kay Bailey Hutchison's appearance Sunday on Meet the Press could have been an opportunity to show potential voters why she kept her gig in Washington instead of resigning to focus on winning the GOP gubernatorial primary in March. It certainly should have been. Yet, on the heels of her questionable decision to stay in the Senate, poorly attended fund-raiser featuring former Vice President Dick Cheney and subsequent release of punchless radio and TV ads, Hutchison gave Governor Rick Perry and voters reasons to question if she's qualified to perform either job.
Predictably, Hutchison and three other senators (Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin and Joe Lieberman) discussed the health-care bill and struggling economy. At one point, host David Gregory played a clip of U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, a Republican from The Woodlands, addressing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. "For the sake of our jobs, will you resign from your post?" Brady asked Geithner last week.
Gregory wanted to know if Geithner should keep his job. "It's too easy to make one person the scapegoat," Lieberman said. Hutchison, after ducking the question a couple times, finally caved in after Gregory pressed her for an answer at about the 5:55 mark (see video after the jump).
"Look, then we shouldn't keep our jobs either," she said. "The president, the Congress and Mr. Geithner are all responsible for going in the wrong direction. This stimulus package is wrong. The health-care bill is wrong."
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Perry's campaign jumped on this quickly, telling The News that "Hutchison finally admitted that she is part of the problem with the out-of-control spending in Washington." Hutchison's people responded by claiming Perry was trying to "score cheap political points."
Sure, Hutchison was able to work in her talking points about the health-care bill, calling it "a disaster for our country" and "a massive government takeover," but the statement about Geithner can only do her harm. Hutchison's unwillingness to initially answer the question reinforces her reputation as indecisive, and her refusal to call for his resignation appears weak to voters outraged at Geithner, who plays a major role in helping the country deal with the recession. She also seemingly accepted equal responsibility in the financial crisis as much as Geithner or anyone else in Washington.
All along, Perry has sold this race as Texas vs. Washington. He told her to stay in Washington to do her job, and she stayed. By doing so, she reinforced Perry's sales pitch, causing her to go overboard in her efforts to explain why she did what she did. So when she goes on national TV and essentially says to blame her as much as Geithner, President Obama or anyone else in Congress for the problems with the economy, she's given those wanting them out of office a reason to say goodbye to her too. And if she's no longer good for Washington, what makes her good for Texas?