November 29th, 2012

Approaching the fiscal cliff without a barrel

There’s lots of talk today about the negotiations about the so-called fiscal cliff.

I’m not sure what Boehner and the other Republicans in Congress really think and whether they’re less naive than they were before about this; they certainly don’t seem strategically sophisticated or aware, now have they shown much of either trait in the past. But I don’t know, because I’m not at all sure there’s a way out of this that works for the Republicans, and perhaps their confusion and weakness is at least in part a reflection of that fact.

I’ve avoided writing about the looming fiscal cliff till now. But I’ve certainly been ruminating about it, with trepidation. The day after the election it suddenly struck me that, although I’d been thinking “well, at least we retained the House,” what power did that really give us? Mostly, perhaps, the power to be blamed, a power that Obama has exercised with more skill by far than any previous president, and more success as well.

One of the very first things I noticed about Obama was his tendency to blame others, and especially Republicans, for almost everything, and to avoid being called weak or buck-passing when doing so. And by “first things I noticed” I mean in June of 2008, before he became president or had even officially been nominated. The occasion was his first major broken promise, the one about campaign financing.

It’s instructive to look at it because of how early this incident was, and how clearly it established what has become a familiar pattern: Obama makes a promise, including a promise to negotiate with Republicans; then breaks it and blames the Republicans for what he’s doing, and the public accepts his version of things:

Yesterday Obama channeled Emily Litella and said “never mind,” taking back his earlier promise to accept public financing for his campaign if his opponent would as well. In November of 2007 he not only made this pledge, but added “I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” He has not (see description of those negotiations here), and today he stopped even pretending that he would.

Well, so what? Promises, shmomises…

It’s not just that he reneged, either–it’s how he reneged. Who’s to blame, according to Obama? Why, John McCain and the nasty Republicans, that’s who. James Joyner writes that this charge of Obama’s does take “a bit of gall.” I’d say it takes substantially more than a bit, as well as a heavy dose of the whining, blaming, audacity in which the holier-than-thou Obama tends to specialize:

The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system,” Mr. Obama said. “John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.”

It’s worth reading the rest of the post to see how the seeds of so many behaviors of Obama’s were displayed during that one incident. The thing that most struck me back then was how brazen his reversal and blaming was, and that even though he did get a little criticism for it from some on the left, most of his supporters defended him and even those who’d offered some criticism didn’t hold it against him. I saw the entire incident as a testing of the waters by Obama to see how far this tactic would take him and how much he could get away with. The answers were: very far, and a great deal.

Now Obama is flush with power, the Republicans reeling in defeat. If they had lost the House, they’d be powerless, but at least they could not be blamed for their impotence. Now they have the illusion of power in that they have a majority there, but what can they do with it on this issue? It’s not as though Obama really wants to negotiate in good faith; his idea of negotiation is to do it his way. So the Republicans can give in to his demands, or stonewall and make their constituents happy. But if they choose the latter, they will not get any important concessions from Obama, and they will be blamed for—well, for everything bad that happens thereafter. They will have given Obama the rope with which to hang the Republican Party.

Some of you may say “so be it; they’re useless anyway.” And I share some of that feeling. It’s very frustrating to look back at the early years of the Bush administration, when Republicans could have cut back on spending instead of expanding it, and reformed health insurance and by so doing finessed Obamacare, and to know the opportunities were passed up and messed up.

But be very, very careful what you wish for. The demise of the Republican Party is not likely to mean that a wonderful new conservative party—designed to your exact specifications, and composed of strategically adept winners—will rise, cleansed, from its ashes.

34 Responses to “Approaching the fiscal cliff without a barrel”

  1. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    In this case the GOP may be better off (and the nation) to let Obama have his way. The 2013 recession is coming no matter what they do and will be as sharp as the 2008 one. They should forget the talks, introduce a good budget bill that eliminates the sequester provisions and let the Dems deal with it. If Harry Reid can offer a senate version let him do it.

  2. Cleaver Says:

    Ann Coulter recommends that House Republicans go ahead and yield — nothing like a little aikido:

    The coming economic collapse is written in the stars, but if Republicans “obstruct” the Democrats by blocking tax hikes on top income earners, they’re going to take 100 percent of the blame for the Obama economy. . . . It is more important to win back the Senate in two years than it is to save the Democrats from their own idiotic tax plan. Unless Republicans give them an out, Democrats won’t be able to hide from what they’ve done.

  3. George Pal Says:

    It’s no longer a matter of what one wishes for but what one has to deal with.

    If the country is headed for a fiscal cliff does it matter at what speed? If the country is headed down a slippery slope does it matter the angle? It may soothe the soul that a miracle may save us but believing in miracles is contingent on believing in God.

    Sixteen trillion, and rising, debt and the inevitable coming destruction of personal wealth by inflation or the expromission of that debt unto future generations – without their consent; either way, a massive theft/crime heretofore unheard of, unimaginable; either way, immorality on a massive scale. The Republicans are not only a part of the problem but the greater part of the problem (if they collaborate) – they claim to know better, they claim awareness of the consequences. Better to be blamed for what you have attempted to put a stop to than be blamed for what you are culpable for. Someone’s going to be judging.

    Hold tight, hold tight, we must insist that the world is what we have always taken it to be.
    T. S. Eliot (The Family Reunion)

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    To those who say they should yield, I’m actually in agreement on that. But there are two pitfalls that loom if that happens. The first (as I point out in the post) is that a lot of their supporters will desert them and consider them cowardly traitors. The second is that if things go better economically, Democrats will say “see, we were right!”

    Of course, if things really do improve in a meaningful way under the Democrats’ watch (which I doubt will happen), that would be good for the country, at least in the short run. But mark my words, even if the Republicans give in on this and avoid blame from the left, the very first time they don’t give in on something, it will be used against them in the very same way, and the blaming will be continual, incessant, and successful. I don’t see how they can avoid blame except by doing a complete and total cave-in for the next four years, and let the chips fall where they may. But then, what conservative will ever vote for them, even if the Republicans make their tactics explicit by stating why they are doing what they’re doing?

  5. M J R Says:

    Gingrich: No “need to form a ‘Surrender Caucus.’ . . . You start setting up the definition of success finding an agreement with Obama, you just gave Obama the ability to say to you, ‘Not good enough.’”

    M J R: Sure seems to me the Republicans should simply vote “present” for now. The One got reelected, let Him ^lead^ for once, let Him propose, let the Republicans criticize His proposals. Only after He ^leads^ should our side provide input.

    — — — — —

    http://dailycaller.com/2012/11/29/gingrich-house-republicans-should-stop-negotiating-with-president-obama/

    Gingrich: House Republicans should stop negotiating with President Obama
    Posted By Alexis Levinson
    The Daily Caller
    3:12 AM 11/29/2012 @ 3:12 AM In DC

    Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that House Republicans should stop negotiating with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats on the fiscal cliff, saying that by doing so, they give Obama all of the leverage in the talks.

    “One of the things I would say to House Republicans is to get a grip,” Gingrich said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

    “They are the majority. They’re not the minority,” he said, enunciating the words as if explaining the concept to someone who did not understand it. “They don’t need to cave in to Obama; they don’t need to form a ‘Surrender Caucus.’”

    “So my number one bit of advice to the congressional Republicans is simple: Back out of of all of this negotiating with Obama. The president is overwhelmingly dominant in the news media. You start setting up the definition of success finding an agreement with Obama, you just gave Obama the ability to say to you, ‘Not good enough,’” Gingrich said.

    [ snip ]

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    M J R: So, I read the Gingrich link, and I still don’t get how he proposes to avoid the consequences of the stonewalling. Did I miss something?

    And didn’t Gingrich and Republicans ultimately lose from their own confrontation with Clinton? I don’t have time right now to look up the details, and I don’t remember exactly how it went down, but that’s my basic recollection.

  7. gcotharn Says:

    I saw [reneging on his promise re campaign finance] as a testing of the waters by Obama to see how far this tactic would take him and how much he could get away with.

    I’ve been ruminating on the relationship between Barack and media.

    It is not that media are cheerleaders who add 15 points to Barack’s vote margin, or who turbocharge his engine.

    Rather, it is that media are partners with Barack. They are an integral part of his engine: they are 4 cylinders of his 8 cylinder engine. President Barack could not exist w/o media. Barack has co-opted media as an integral part of his administration; as an integral part of how he operates; as an integral part of how he gets things accomplished. Integral. Part.

    I’m searching for a proper metaphor..

    If Barack were general, media would be his infantry. He would not formulate strategy by saying: we’ll bomb them, and then maybe our infantry will join in and give a nice boost to our effort. No. Barack’s strategy is heavily dependent on his media infantry: Barack assumes, from the beginning, that media will be there for him: Barack bases his strategy around his media infantry dependably being there for him; bases his strategy around his media infantry dependably accomplishing certain things which Barack needs accomplished in order to win the battle.

    Barack STARTS his strategy by figuring out what his media infantry can accomplish on the battlefield, and only THEN does Barack add in a Harry Reid Naval force here, and a Nancy Pelosi Air Force there, and couple of Wasserman Shultz mortars here and and there. Barack BEGINS his strategizing with what media will accomplish for him, and then plays off of that with the Reid and Pelosi, et al. Barack and media are partners. The media are dependable, and Barack depends on them. He calculates what can be accomplished … via initially calculating what his media infantry will accomplish for him.

  8. Mr. Frank Says:

    The Republicans don’t have any good options. One approach would be to pass a bill extending all current tax rates for Obama to veto or for the Senate to bury. This could be done a few days before Jan. 1. If he vetoed it, all taxes would go up, and it would be on him. The Republicans could say they were reluctant to raise any taxes in such a weak economy.

    Alternatively they could pass a bill giving Obama half of what he wants saying it is in the interest of cooperation.

  9. Sam L. Says:

    Almost everything? What hasn’t he?

    “…the public accepts it.” Because the media keep repeating what he says. Opposition must not be brooked!

    And gcotharn makes a very good point, though I’d say the media are his air force, as he calls in air strikes.

  10. M J R Says:

    neo-neocon, 3:21 pm —

    I’m afraid the bottom line is, when the enemy controls the bullhorns, the microphones, the presses, and the airwaves, whatever our side does will come off as bad. So we(I) may as well focus on getting the best — the least lousy — deal, without regard for the PR consequences. Our PR will be terrible whatever we do.

    I’ve always been amazed at the Clinton-Gingrich standoff. Side A wants this, side B wants that. ^Both^ let the government shut down. So side B gets the blame for the shutdown, in the general culture. That only happens when side A controls the narrative. Side B is fifty to a hundred years too late to that party.

    I wish I could be more positive and/or constructive; neo, thanks for the response.

  11. GoneWithTheWind Says:

    As a conservative I support the Republicans. I choose not to support the Rinos and was sad to see some of them win reelection to congress in the past elections. But when any Republican votes against conservative interests they deserve to lose conservative support. Would that mean that possibly a Democrat would take their seat? Yes. Would that mean we were biting off our nose to spite our face. No. If we conservatives are going to lose or constitutional republic then let it be the Democrats who engineer it and not a Rino who is merely trying to do whatever it takes to get reelected.

  12. Steve Says:

    If Republicans are going to get blamed regardless then why give in? They will get more support from their base if they stand up for conservative principles. If dems want a crisis, give them what they want.

  13. KLSmith Says:

    John Boehner will cave and the Republicans will once again get the worst of both worlds. All the bad PR from putting up a fight just to cave in the end. How many of us realize that most establishment Republicans are happy to trade turns presiding over our leviathan government?

  14. Papa Dan Says:

    M J R Says:

    “I’ve always been amazed at the Clinton-Gingrich standoff. Side A wants this, side B wants that. ^Both^ let the government shut down. So side B gets the blame for the shutdown, in the general culture. That only happens when side A controls the narrative. Side B is fifty to a hundred years too late to that party.”

    Yes, and nearly 20 years later Side A takes credit for budget surpluses.

    I agree on the Republicans voting present. Let Obama own it.

  15. Don Carlos Says:

    The GOP and we the people will lose this game.

    A) The GOP will be blamed for protecting the “Rich” if they oppose Barack.

    B) If the GOP compromises with Barack and the economy goes South (which it assuredly will), they will share in the blame, or be blamed for not compromising enough to achieve national salvation.

    C) Boehner et al. are not the Moses to lead us out of this financial and national governance disaster-in-the-making.

    The “wealthy” where I reside are presently scurrying around like frightened rats as the water rises. A friend, an estate and tax lawyer, tells me he has been inundated by new clients since Nov. 6, and is now booked up for the next 4 months. This is a pleasant novelty for him; he is working 12 hr days, six days a week, and building up his own estate in the process.

  16. vanderleun Says:

    There’s no real lose in just stepping away from the Fiscal Cliff Vehicle.

    First elections are in two years and that’s a long, long, long, long time in politics.

    The on the ground situation in November of 2014 and November of 2016 will be infinitely more determinative than a fading memory of what was done or not done in the winter of 2012.

  17. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    My take:
    The GOP should stand aside, but not silently. They should tell Obama and the electorate they will not block his plan but that they don’t agree with it. And state, in detail, their disagreements. That way they can not be blamed for the inevitable recession and financial chaos. (All the tea leaves point to another recession even if we don’t go over the fiscal cliff. If we do, the recession arrives sooner and is just that much deeper.)

    If things get better short term, that will be a time to analyze and figure out why that is happening. My guess would be that things could improve because the uncertainty is removed for a time. Right now uncertainty has induced paralysis in the business community.

    That said, we know that, historically, no nation has ever escaped the consequences of unchecked debt. It is not of matter of if, only when. Therefore, I think the GOP can stand aside and demand that Obama lead and take responsibility for his irresponsible, socialist economic policies. It could lead to a majority of people finally realizing that the fiscally conservative path is better. Then the 2014 election would be all about the economy.

  18. parker Says:

    There is no “fiscal cliff”. This is a rerun of last year’s charade. Taxes will be raised on the evil 1% and the debt ceiling will be raised, in Tiny Tim’s words, to infinity. http://tinyurl.com/ce7qk4a

    I’m with the pin the tail on the donkey crowd. Let BHO, the MSM, and the Hollywood drones own this thing. Let them raise taxes and make no real spending cuts. Let the FY 2013 deficit bloom. Let the bond vigilantes ride. Make Uncle Ben buy 98% of all T-bonds. A deep recession is a crisis too good to waste.

    The 2014 GOP campaign slogan: We told you so.

  19. Don Carlos Says:

    This just in:

    News Alert
    from The Wall Street Journal

    President Barack Obama made an opening bid in budget talks with Republicans that calls for a $1.6 trillion tax increase, a $50 billion economic-stimulus program and new power to raise the federal debt limit without congressional approval, a broad set of demands Republicans viewed as a step back in talks to avoid looming tax increases and spending cuts.

  20. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos: Obama can demand whatever he wants, because he knows that no matter what:

    (a) the public is not paying attention to the details and the back-and-forth

    (b) the media will spin it his way and cooperate in blaming the Republicans whatever happens

    (c) the public will read just enough to get the message, “Those effing Republicans, getting in the way of the obvious solution again!”

  21. Don Carlos Says:

    Neo-
    Of course he can.
    But the point is his proposal, the opening salvo, especially seeking his freedom to raise the debt ceiling. We knew the taxes are coming, but eliminating the debt ceiling? Helicopter Ben plus Baraq is one hell of a tag-team; Ben prints and lends, Baraq and Timmy borrow. No end in sight, ever, if he gets his way. I expect Baraq to serve a third term….

    Any doubt whither we are headed? To Mugabeland?

  22. M J R Says:

    Charles Krauthammer: “Republicans Ought To Simply Walk Away”

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/11/29/krauthammer_on_fiscal_cliff_negotiations_republicans_ought_to_simply_walk_away.html

    Real Clear Politics Video
    The Latest Politics, News & Election Videos
    Krauthammer On Fiscal Cliff Negotiations: “Republicans Ought To Simply Walk Away”
    Posted on November 29, 2012

    CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: “It’s not just a bad deal, this is really an insulting deal. What Geithner offered, what you showed on the screen, Robert E. Lee was offered easier terms at Appomattox, and he lost the Civil War. The Democrats won by 3% of the vote and they did not hold the House, Republicans won the house. So this is not exactly unconditional surrender, but that is what the administration is asking of the Republicans.

    “This idea — there are not only no cuts in this, there’s an increase in spending with a new stimulus. I mean, this is almost unheard of. What do they expect? They obviously expect the Republicans will cave on everything. I think the Republicans ought to simply walk away. The president is the president. He’s the leader. They are demanding that the Republicans explain all the cuts that they want to make.

    “We had that movie a year-and-a-half ago where Paul Ryan presented a budget, a serious real budget with real cuts. Obama was supposed to gave speech where he would respond with a counter offer. And what did he do? He gave a speech where he had Ryan sitting in the front row. He called the Ryan proposal un-American, insulted him, offered nothing, and ran on Mediscare in the next 18 months.”

    [ snip ]

  23. Molly NH Says:

    well said by Parker, I agree with that take

  24. rickl Says:

    My 6:45 pm comment “is awaiting moderation”.

    Yeah, it was immoderate, all right. But it stands as written. I ain’t changing it.

  25. Steve Says:

    I like Krauthammer’s advice: Just walk away. Stop playing this game. It is time to be a grownup. The debt ceiling is another quandry. Obama is unlikely to propose spending cuts. Should Republicans refuse to go along here too? Maybe states should start planning for this eventuality and take steps to become ‘self-sufficient.’

  26. Otiose Says:

    So because the Rep under Bush could have but didn’t (foolishly) rein in spending they should give in now? It’s seems to me it’s never too late to do the right thing.

    This country has a serious spending problem not a tax problem. And if the Rep don’t step up now then what good are they?

    Whether they give in or not Obama and MSM will do their best to blame them for whatever comes.

    In any case IMO we are already on course for a downturn next year. There are widespread indications that capital formation has fallen off and we will see this manifest in the official numbers by mid next year.

    Back when Clinton got his tax increases in the early 90′s the economy did well and we had surpluses. The left likes to tout the cause as the tax increases themselves. The less brain dead say only that the tax increase had no ill effect on the economy.

    The real primary causes for the booming economy can be more likely found in the ending of the cold war in 89 and the subsequent downsizing of military spending (i.e. government spending) which returned more resources to the private sector where the increased capital formation resulted in an improved economy. The improved economy happened in spite of those tax increases not because of them.

    Analogously capital formation has been so hammered by recent governmental interference/actions that the lapse of the Bush tax cuts in January are probably harmful but secondary to the larger momentum towards a slower economy next year.

    The question is whether strategically it’s better to give in or not. My gut tells me that giving in is a too clever by half situation. It’s better to bargain honestly and straightforwardly based on Rep principles. If that means that a stalemate develops and the taxes and cuts come to be then so be it.

    Let’s not delude ourselves into believing that surrender will be given any credit by MSNBC.

    BTW there are some difficult factors lurking that will make the downturn worse here regardless of what we do.

    Japan is nearing the end of it’s long misadventure/experiment with Keynesian economics and low interest rates that will end very badly. They have been suffering for more than two decades. It is amazing and scary that our hi-IQ central bankers have been able to watch the Japanese torture themselves and yet we are going down the same path. It’s like quicksand – beyond a certain point there’s no escaping the consequences. Yearly deficit spending (i.e. stimulus) and low interest (i.e. also stimulus) have resulted in they’re being trapped with a huge debt overhang and no way out and the situation is made worse by demographic shifts which now leave them unable to apply a solution without major pain. (The solution is to cut government spending drastically to shift resources to the private sector where higher interest rates encouraging capital investment can create sustainable growth. Private spending must be unsupported by government guarantees so that the market can allow discovery and separation of the good from the bad.)

    China is a seething mess and given the Chinese tendency to screw their situation up racking millions in deaths (not so long ago history) don’t expect that to end well. The problem is that there is a strong element within their governing structure that reminds me of the 1930′s Germans – the ones looking for a little payback – and we could easily get dragged into some war defending our allies over there (trigger likely to be some rocks in the ocean). We have some experts (probably colleagues of the ones who’ve been saying for years the Iranians aren’t trying to build a usable nuclear weapon) who insist the Chinese only have a few hundred nuclear weapons. In the last twenty years they’ve been building up their submarine fleet, surface fleet, and conventional missile capabilities. It’s seriously delusional to expect that they haven’t been spending money to amass nuclear weapons. And unlike the Iranians the Chinese can reach anywhere in the US. If they have fewer than 10,000 I would be surprised – certainly not 2-300. Hopefully that disaster will be limited to economic repercussions only.

    Lastly, Europe is falling apart. The recent Greek bail out in the news is – if you read carefully – no such thing. It is so heavily conditioned that it is unlikely actual cash will be shifted over to Greece, which will not help find a solution in any case. The people in charge are pursuing austerity on the private sector (higher taxes and continued high government spending) while ignoring austerity on the government side (cut government spending and workers along with reduced regulations). That’s already impacting us and we can expect Bernanke/Obama to use the Fed to support the ECB when matters worsen (downside hasn’t been explored – i.e. it can and will get worse).

    I see nothing regarding Obama that indicates he has the personality, leadership stature, knowledge skillset (e.g. economics), or strength of character (he certainly is no Lincoln) to bring about a sound result or compromise in these negotiations.

    It’s probably better for the Rep to stand their ground let the cuts and taxes occur and as the economy goes to the worse continue to make the case as to why it’s bad and how it connects to Obama and his actions and policies. In 2014 the Rep can offer a real alternative instead of Dem policies lite.

  27. parker Says:

    “I see nothing regarding Obama that indicates he has the personality, leadership stature, knowledge skillset (e.g. economics), or strength of character (he certainly is no Lincoln) to bring about a sound result or compromise in these negotiations.”

    This may be the understatement of the 21st century and there are still 88 years to go!

  28. Bob From Virginia Says:

    Neo you noted Obama’s early patterns of behavior have consistently repeated themselves. Also noteworthy was the public response to his hypocrisy: indifference and possibly respect for his boldness. The public’s response is unfortunately also consistent.

    I am certainly no economist or political planner, but if I had to advise the Republicans it would to do whatever they do boldly and loudly. The appearance of strength translates quickly into the reality of strength (see Iran). It is too much to hope that this would make Obama appear weak in light of his MSM bodyguards, but it would be better than the appearance of weakness. Weakness is never in fashion and if 2008 and 2012 teaches us anything it is that competence is far less important than fashion.

  29. beverly Says:

    I disagree that the Republicans couldn’t be blamed if we didn’t have the House.

    We didn’t have the House in the first two years of the “god-king’s” term, and we STILL got blamed — for everything. And our idiotic fellow residents swallowed the whole thing.

    This being the case, and with the Fourth Estate now firmly in the role of Fifth Column, I don’t know what we can do to PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEY.

    But that’s what we need to do: PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEY where it belongs!

    Hey, I know: let’s start a meme! Flog it relentlessly, and flog the Left with it relentlessly.

  30. beverly Says:

    In other words: we need to get on the rooftops and yell with one voice that this entire donnybrook is ON THE DIMOCRATS.

    Swat aside their attempts to blame us like so many horseflies, and pin the tail on that donkey. Dadgummit, that’s the ONE thing that Bush, McCain, Romney, and the rest of them never even tried to do. It’s also our only hope.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

  31. Michael Brazier Says:

    There are two courses the GOP can follow; here is what I think the results of each would be.

    One: give Obama and Reid what they want, while proclaiming the inevitable disaster to come from it. This will not influence swing voters, because they will never hear the proclamation; they will hear about it, but only as evidence of GOP obstruction, on which the media will blame all the evils of the coming term. Meanwhile the conservative voters, who will know what the GOP really did, abandon federal politics as futile.

    Two: put up resistance; block Obama’s expenditures by any means to hand, challenge his regulations, reject his nominees for office, whenever these violate conservative principles (which will be most of them.) Again swing voters will not hear the reasons for this, merely the bare fact of GOP obstruction; but the conservative voters, knowing the GOP is doing what it can, do not abandon federal politics.

    There’s a thing Glenn Reynolds often says about global warming activists who have immense fuel-eating mansions and take jet planes to conferences in tropical climes: “I’ll believe there’s a crisis when the people who say there’s a crisis act like it.” That’s where the GOP is now: they are telling the world that government debt is a crisis. If they don’t try to stop Obama from running up more debt, they aren’t acting like the debt is a crisis; why then should anyone not already convinced of the crisis believe what they’re saying?

  32. Tesh Says:

    The trouble with letting Obama do whatever he wants, beside the little detail that what he wants is *not good*, is that the voting populace won’t actually pay attention to causation and reality. They will keep voting based on popularity contests and spiffy campaign lies. Until voters actually pay attention, *nothing* elected Republicans can do will matter. There’s no aikido to be had here, because voters will not pay attention and engage their brains. At least, not enough of them.

  33. Kyndyll Says:

    Unfortunately, my high-principled friends, you are not dealing with a population with any principles or intelligence. This has been the fundamental weak point of the Republican Party for years – we keep thinking that we’re dealing with people like ourselves, who play by actual rules, can differentiate between truth and abject lies and are impressed by unwavering support of ideals, but the public has shown its willingness – and outright happiness – to vote for a lying SOS.

    At this point, the chance of swaying the progressive herd toward voting Republican ranges from 0 to low. We’ve already tried stomping our feet and standing our ground. As noted in this post, there is 100% certainty of the outcome in this example: economic disaster and finger-pointing from the blamer-in-chief. If we play a winning game of Chicken, he might actually let all of the tax cuts expire and blame the evil Republicans from now until the end of time for the terrible economy and everybody getting tax increases, which will be 100% bad for us; or, he might pull an 11th-hour “Oh, those awful Republicans want everyone to get a tax increase, but because I care so much about the middle-class, I’m going to only increase taxes on the evil rich pigs” manuever, which will be 100% bad for us. Either way, we get a bad outcome that cannot possibly be defended from the media and the tiny minds that vote for Obama, and the president gets exactly what he wants.

    What do they say about repeating stupid things that fail, hoping for a different outcome? Don’t we normally accuse liberals of that?

    Folks, I’m sorry if it offends your principles and honor, but there is only one even remotely viable strategy for the Republicans involved in this standoff. They have to make clear their specific reservations about this strategy (ie, a couple of hundred billion in additional revenue, if the rich people stick around to get abused, will not even touch the current-year trillion-plus deficit that Obama wants, much less help decrease debt), state clearly and unequivocally that they believe that this is ineffective and bad things will result, and vote present and let this president own the epic disaster he is going to create no matter what.

    I am a person of honor and seek to do the right thing in my life; but it’s not doing the right thing to get trampled in the dust fighting a pointless battle that is going to be lost. If something is doomed to fail, the battle has zero rightness. It may give you warm fuzzies to fight – or expect other people to fight – battles that cannot be won because doing so is “the right thing” but no rightness is going to ensue by fighting and losing this battle. Losing soldiers (further compromising the fewer people we have in power) and ammunition (by ensuring that we have no leg to stand on in debate against the lowest-common-denominator public in the media wars on this topic) is stupid, not “doing the right thing.”

    Will it work? After the 2012 election, I have my doubts. There are still people who support this bum, and I suspect that nothing – not riots, soup lines or kristallnacht circa 2014 – will change that. But if we let him have his way, at least we can say, look, we did not impede in any way, and look at the disaster that he caused. The left will still blame Bush, blame rich people, blame Republicans, blame everything in the world but themselves and their bad ideas, and it looks like a majority of people will believe them, but at least, for the first time in years, we would have a single easily illustrated point to hammer on as hard as we can.

    The rules of battle have changed. You might think it’s more noble to send formations of soldiers into the field to get cut down by machine guns rather than cower in trenches, but when the rules change, it’s foolish, not right, to stick to a losing strategy. Let Obama own his debacle. It’s our only hope.

  34. parker Says:

    “The rules of battle have changed.”

    Get behind them and shoot them in the back. ;-) BTW, I am completely serious.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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