Republicans want something in the government shutdown, but they don't seem to know what. Their message is garbled, and their public relations are pathetic.
How bad is it? This crisis would be beyond Olivia Pope of "Scandal."
One factor: The GOP trips itself up almost daily with terrible TV performances.
The Republican heirs to Reagan lack the Gipper's smooth savvy. The GOP needs to go back to the Reagan playbook to study how to win friends and influence enemies. Reagan employed all his acting skills as a politician to pull off his achievements.
But so many politicians today can't act or don't do smoothness. They seethe and scold on national television, which may play well with one group but turns off others.
The Republicans are often righteous about their views, another turnoff, and give economic lectures better suited for colleges. Where did the common touch go?
Television can't get enough of the fury. The anger plays into government-by- "Crossfire." That old show did a lot of damage, but ratings-hungry CNN has revived the format and brought on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In government-by-"Crossfire," the focus is on the drama of politicians fighting instead of the mundane efforts to correct problems.
Does it seem some politicians would rather be on television than working in the U.S. Capitol?
These Republicans haven't a clue about how badly they're doing on television. Some big GOP names keep making ill-advised appearances.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is a bewildering figure and a tiresome blowhard. He's like the crazy cousin you tolerate at holiday gatherings and avoid the rest of the year.
He's the worst, but other Republicans come in unpalatable varieties.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee comes off as a self-satisfied scold, one who rudely interrupts others on TV.
Rep. Steve King of Iowa makes bizarre, offensive comments.
They all keep getting invited on television. They should all take a break, for the good of their party.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky comes off as sour, like Elvira Gulch in "The Wizard of Oz." Sen. Rand Paul, also of Kentucky, blunts his appeal with a condescending righteousness. Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia is cold. They all need Reagan refresher courses.
House Speaker John Boehner has been ridiculed for his tears. His TV appearances are reason for tears. He's not very good on camera.
That's why Sen. John McCain keeps popping up everywhere on television. He still has the gift.
In the most revealing comment about the shutdown, Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., told the Washington Examiner: "We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."
In your heart, you know he's right -- and it's all so wrong for Republicans. They will keep getting disrespected if their TV appearances don't improve.
Somewhere Ronald Reagan is weeping.