Blurb Flap!

No, the two words of this headline were not picked at random: they describe a flap over the publisher's blurb describing a book by House Republicans Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy entitled "Young Guns," wherein publisher Simon & Schuster describes the three as "proud Republicans" who also believe the party has lost its way. CongressDaily's Billy House reports:

In what can only be described as a bizarre election-year declaration, the blurb announces that the three lawmakers "are proud Republicans," but "they believe that their party has lost sight of American ideals."

Of course, such an admission from Cantor, Ryan and McCarthy was seized upon by the office of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and assistant to Speaker Pelosi.

"If the leaders of the House Republicans don't even have confidence in their party to do the right thing, why should the American people?" said Van Hollen spokesman Doug Thornell.

A spokesman for Minority Leader Boehner declined to comment, noting Boehner wasn't one of the book's authors. Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring initially responded that, "Eric, Paul and Kevin certainly appreciate the free advance advertising from our Democrat friends, and I'm sure that Simon and Schuster does as well."

But by later Tuesday afternoon, Dayspring was insisting, "The language that appeared on the publisher's website was a temporary place-holder that is being replaced by the official description of the 'Young Guns' book, as it will appear on the back cover."

Whether the new version of the blurb -- which was to be posted at midnight and will appear on the book jacket when it is released in September -- is any gentler to fellow Republicans is doubtful.

It reads, in part: "Make no mistake: Congressmen Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy are proud Republicans. But they believe the party had lost sight of the ideals it believes in, like economic freedom, limited government, the sanctity of life, and putting families first. This isn't your grandfather's Republican party. These Young Guns of the House GOP -- Cantor (the leader), Ryan (the thinker), and McCarthy (the strategist) -- are ready to take their belief in the principles that have made America great and translate it into solutions that will make the future even better ..."

Cantor, Ryan, and McCarthy represent a segment of young, rising-star House Republicans separate from older power axes (like the acolytes of Tom DeLay), and they've fought hard to put themselves at the vanguard of Republican policy initiatives and brand ID. The "Young Guns" book is a fitting move for them.

This blurb back-and-forth is a lame partisan spat, but it does indicate two things: 1) just how much has changed for the Republican Party in the last year and a half. In the spring of 2009, it was totally appropriate for Republicans and conservatives to claim proud identification and also disown the party, in its post-2008 shambles, as being lost and in need of new direction; and 2) how, as an election approaches, you can't have it both ways--the tropes of ideological reinvention don't sell votes as well, three and a half months from Election Day, as they sold participation, discussion, and hope for a distant future when the '08 election was lost and the GOP had to find its new way. The people who participated in the finding of that new way now have to sell the way they found.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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