Editor’s Note – The ‘Establishment’ GOP throws in the towel without even putting up a fight? Does the ‘Ol’ Guard’, establishment GOP, represent “We the People” or even those that put them into their offices?
The Senate GOP Plan to Surrender Debt Control to Obama
Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, (R-KY), are reportedly planning legislation allowing President Barack Obama to lift the nation’s debt ceiling on his authority, according to sources on Capitol Hill.
Under the potential Senate Republican plan, Congress would merely retain the right to “disapprove” of the President’s action to lift the nation’s debt limit. But disapproving the action would require a hard-to-reach two-thirds vote of both chambers of Congress.
Political observers may recognize this move. It is similar to the Corker-Cardin legislation that allowed Obama to agree to the nuclear deal with Iran. The Corker legislation simply allowed Congress to disapprove the action, albeit with a vote threshold that was almost impossible to attain.
It conveniently allowed the Iran deal to come into force while enabling Republicans to vote against the treaty in everything but name.
Adopting the Corker framework for the debt ceiling does two things important to Sen. McConnell. It would allow the nation’s debt ceiling to increase, empowering the Treasury Department to continue borrowing funds.
It would also allow most Republicans to cast symbolic votes against lifting the debt ceiling. They could then campaign saying they were against raising the debt ceiling in the upcoming elections next Fall.
It’s a plan only a politician in Washington could love. It also goes a long way to explain the visceral disgust most voters feel towards Washington. On a more fundamental level, it explains the existential crisis gripping the Republican party.
The debt ceiling limits the amount of debt the federal government can accumulate, and is now set at $18,100 billion.
The federal government is borrowing additional funds for the expected 2016 budget, so it will hit that limit sometime after Nov. 3. Unless raised again, the ceiling would bar additional borrowing, and would force politically painful cuts in annual federal spending.
The Republican party in Washington is basically in the business of hiring hit-men, to ensure it has a solid alibi when a crime is committed.
The operational strategy of the Republican party now is to avoid any protracted political fight with Obama or the Democrats and hope to gain marginal political advantage in the next election. It presumably is working for a day when it control all levers of government by such a margin that it can enact its platform with zero political risk.
In the coming weeks, while most of the political world is consumed with the battle to replace
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as House Speaker, the Congressional calendar is chocked-full of measures that the Washington establishment thinks must be passed. A new spending bill must be authorized by early December.
The Treasury Department says the debt ceiling must be lifted in early November to avoid a potential default on the nation’s debt. There is a “need” to shore-up the Highway Trust Fund and a desperate push by corporate donors to reestablish the Export-Import Bank.
The pending Senate plan to give Obama the power to lift the debt ceiling is preview of how Republicans plan to navigate these waters. They would rather cede Congressional authority over the purse to Obama than have a debate or fight.
If Senate Republicans go through with a Corker-type bill granting Obama the power to lift the debt ceiling, as seems likely, it raises the question not only of why we have Republicans, but why we have a Senate.
A few days ago I took the time to read your expressed concerns about the support you see for Donald Trump and the state of current conservative opinion. Toward that end I have also noted additional media present a similar argument, and I took the time to consider.
While we are of far lesser significance and influence, I hope you will consider this retort with the same level of consideration afforded toward your position.
The challenging aspect to your expressed opinion, and perhaps why there is a chasm between us, is you appear to stand in defense of a Washington DC conservatism that no longer exists.
I hope you will indulge these considerations and correct me where I’m wrong.
On December 23rd 2009 Harry Reid passed a version of Obamacare through forced vote at 1:30am.
The Senators could not leave, and for the two weeks previous were kept in a prolonged legislative session barred returning to their home-state constituencies.
It was, by all measures and reality, a vicious display of forced ideological manipulation of the upper chamber.
I share this reminder only to set the stage for what was to follow.
Riddled with anxiety we watched the Machiavellian manipulations unfold, seemingly unable to stop the visible usurpation.
Desperate for a tool to stop the construct we found Scott Brown and rallied to deliver $7 million in funding, and a “Kennedy Seat” victory on January 19th 2010.
Unfortunately, the trickery of Majority Leader Harry Reid would not be deterred. Upon legislative return he stripped a House Budgetary bill, and replaced it with the Democrat Senate version of Obamacare through a process of “reconciliation”.
Thereby avoiding the 3/5ths vote rule (60) and instead using only a simple majority, 51 votes.
Angered, we rallied to the next election (November 2010) and handed the usurping Democrats the single largest electoral defeat in the prior 100 years. The House returned to Republican control, and one-half of the needed Senate seats reversed.
Within the next two election cycles (’12 and ’14) we again removed the Democrats from control of the Senate.
Within each of those three elections we were told Repealing Obamacare would be job #1. It was not an optional part of our representative agreement to do otherwise.
From your own writing:
[…] If you want a really good sense of the damage Donald Trump is doing to conservatism, consider the fact that for the last five years no issue has united the Right more than opposition to Obamacare. Opposition to socialized medicine in general has been a core tenet of American conservatism from Day One. Yet, when Republicans were told that Donald Trump favors single-payer health care, support for single-payer health care jumped from 16 percent to 44 percent. (link)
With control of the House and Senate did Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or House Speaker John Boehner use the same level of severity expressed by Harry Reid to put a repeal bill on the desk of Obama for veto? Simply, NO.
Why not? According to you it’s the “core tenet of American conservatism”.
If for nothing but to accept and follow the will of the people. Despite the probability of an Obama veto, this was not a matter of option. While the method might have been “symbolic”, due to the almost guaranteed veto, it would have stood as a promise fulfilled.
Yet you speak of “core tenets” and question our “trust” of Donald Trump?
We are not blind to the maneuverings of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and President Tom Donohue. We are fully aware the repeal vote did not take place because the U.S. CoC demanded the retention of Obamacare.
Leader McConnell followed the legislative priority of Tom Donohue as opposed to the will of the people. This was again exemplified with the passage of TPPA, another Republican construct which insured the Trans-Pacific Trade Deal could pass the Senate with 51 votes instead of 3/5ths.
We are not blind to the reality that when McConnell chooses to change the required voting threshold he is apt to do so. Not coincidentally, the TPP trade deal is another legislative priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Yet you question the “trustworthiness” of Donald Trump’s conservatism?
Another bill, the Iran “agreement”, reportedly and conveniently not considered a “treaty”, again we are not blind.
Yet you question the “ideological conservative principle” of Donald Trump?
Perhaps your emphasis is on the wrong syllable. Perhaps you should be questioning the “ideological conservative principle” of Mitch McConnell, or Bob Corker; both of whom apparently working to deny the will of the electorate within the party they are supposed to represent.
Of course, this would force you to face some uncomfortable empirical realities. I digress.
Another example – How “conservative” is Lisa Murkowski? A senator who can lose her Republican primary bid, yet run as a write-in candidate, and return to the Senate with full seniority and committee responsibilities?
Did Reince Preibus, or a republican member of leadership meet the returning Murkowski and demand a Pledge of Allegiance to the principles within the Republican party?
Yet you question the “allegiances” of Donald Trump?
Perhaps within your purity testing you need to forget minority leader Mitch McConnell working to re-elect Senator Thad Cochran, fundraising on his behalf in the spring/summer of 2014, even after Cochran lost the first Mississippi primary?
Perhaps you forget the NRSC spending money on racist attack ads? Perhaps you forget the GOP paying Democrats to vote in the second primary to defeat Republican Chris McDaniel. The “R” in NRSC is “Republican”.
Perhaps you forget. We do not.
Yet you question the “principle” of those who have had enough, and are willing to support candidate Donald Trump.
You describe yourself as filled with anxiety because such supporters do not pass some qualified “principle” test?
Tell that to the majority of Republicans who supported Chris McDaniel and found their own party actively working against them.
Principle? You claim “character matters” as part of this consideration. Where is the “character” in the fact-based exhibitions outlined above?
Remember Virginia 2012, 2013? When the conservative principle-driven electorate changed the method of candidate selection to a convention and removed the party stranglehold on their “chosen candidates”. Remember that? We do.
What did McConnell, the RNC and the GOP do in response with Ken Cuccinelli, they actively spited him and removed funding from his campaign. To teach us a lesson? Well it worked, we learned that lesson.
Representative David Brat was part of that lesson learned and answer delivered. Donald Trump is part of that lesson learned and answer forthcoming – yet you speak of “character”.
You speak of being concerned about Donald Trump’s hinted tax proposals.
Well, who cut the tax rates on lower margins by 50% thereby removing any tax liability from the bottom 20% wage earners? While simultaneously expanding the role of government dependency programs?
That would be the GOP (“Bush Tax Cuts”)
What? How dare you argue against tax cuts, you say. The “Bush Tax Cuts” removed tax liability from the bottom 20 to 40% of income earners completely. Leaving the entirety of tax burden on the upper 60% wage earners. Currently, thanks to those cuts, 49% of tax filers pay ZERO federal income tax.
But long term it’s much worse. The “Bush Tax Cuts” were, in essence, created to stop the post 9/11/01 recession – and they contained a “sunset provision” which ended ten years later specifically because the tax cuts were unsustainable.
The expiration of the lower margin tax cuts then became an argument in the election cycle of 2012. And as usual, the GOP, McConnell and Boehner were insufferably inept during this process.
The GOP (2002) removed tax liability from the lower income levels, and President Obama then (2009) lowered the income threshold for economic subsidy (welfare, food stamps, ebt, medicaid, etc) this was brutally predictable.
This lower revenue higher spending approach means – lower tax revenues and increased pressure on the top tax rates (wage earners) with the increased demand for tax spending created within the welfare programs.
Republicans focus on the “spending” without ever admitting they, not the Democrats, lowered rates and set themselves up to be played with the increased need for social program spending, simultaneously.
Is this reality/outcome not ultimately a “tax the rich” program?
As a consequence what’s the difference between the Republicans and Democrats on taxes? All of a sudden Republicans are arguing to “broaden the tax base”.
Meaning, reverse the tax cuts they created on the lower income filers? This is a conservative position now? A need to “tax the poor”? Nice of the Republicans to insure the Democrats have an atomic sledgehammer to use against them.
This is a winning strategy? This is the “conservatism” you are defending because you are worried about Donald Trump’s principles, character or trustworthiness.
Here’s a list of those modern conservative “small(er) government” principles:
• Did the GOP secure the border with control of the White House and Congress? NO.
• Did the GOP balance the budget with control of the White House and Congress? NO.
• Who gave us the TSA? The GOP
• Who gave us the Patriot Act? The GOP
• Who expanded Medicare to include prescription drug coverage? The GOP
• Who created the precursor of “Common Core” in “Race To the Top”? The GOP
• Who played the race card in Mississippi to re-elect Thad Cochran? The GOP
• Who paid Democrats to vote in the Mississippi primary? The GOP
• Who refused to support Ken Cuccinnelli in Virginia? The GOP
• Who supported Charlie Crist? The GOP
• Who supported Arlen Spector? The GOP
• Who supported Bob Bennett? The GOP
• Who worked against Marco Rubio? The GOP
• Who worked against Rand Paul? The GOP
• Who worked against Ted Cruz? The GOP
• Who worked against Mike Lee? The GOP
• Who worked against Jim DeMint? The GOP
• Who worked against Ronald Reagan? The GOP
• Who said “I think we are going to crush [the Tea Party] everywhere.”? The GOP (McConnell)
And, you wonder why we’re frustrated, desperate for a person who can actually articulate some kind of push-back? Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are what the GOP give us? SERIOUSLY?
Which leads to the next of your GOP talking points. Where you opine on Fox:
“Politics is a game where you don’t get everything you want”
Fair enough. But considering we of questionable judgment have simply been demanding common sense, ie. fiscal discipline, a BUDGET would be nice.
The last federal budget was passed in September of 2007, and EVERY FLIPPING INSUFFERABLE YEAR we have to go through the predictable fiasco of a Government Shutdown Standoff and/or a Debt Ceiling increase specifically because there is NO BUDGET!
That’s a strategy?
That’s the GOP strategy? Essentially: Lets plan for an annual battle against articulate Democrats and Presidential charm, using a creepy guy who cries and another old mumbling fool who dodders, knowing full well the MSM is on the side of the other guy to begin with?
THAT’S YOUR GOP STRATEGY?
Don’t tell me it’s not, because if it wasn’t there’d be something else being done – there isn’t.
And don’t think we don’t know the 2009 “stimulus” became embedded in the baseline of the federal spending, and absent of an actual budget it just gets spent and added to the deficit each year, every year. Yet this is somehow smaller fiscal government?
Once again, its Andy McCarthy who sums up a “what just happened” moment so clearly. His column below describes best what really was taking place in the whole Ted Cruz/ObamaCare/Shutdown/Debt Ceiling ‘crisis’ and the rancor now in the Republican Party.
Now that the left has won the day, again, and do not think it was not a big win, we see all the hand-wringing from the establishment Republicans, and gloating from the left. Leading that charge is none other than Rep. Peter King of New York – go figure, a “Republican” from the northeast, a “Lawn Guyland” boy from Uber-Blue New York.
If you listen to establishment Republicans like Peter King, you would think Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, and the Tea Party Caucus in the House ruined any chance for the resurgence of the Republican Party for ever. Peter King sounds more like a White House staffer than a Republican in interviews today and he has a terrible memory. We Tea Party people gave you a majority in the House back in 2010 and what do you do Mr. King, you castigate the millions who made it happen.
“Washington does not listen”, Peter King is deaf, and the RINOs forget. Remember this Mr. King, if you were not in “our” majority, far more would have been achieved in the ‘fundamental transformation’ Obama called for in 2008 because the Democrats would still have the majority. It would not just be the Senate, but also in the House. That would have allowed them to unilaterally foist more Nancy Pelosi, “we need to pass it so we can see what’s in it” bills.
King does not like the fact that a grassroots movement expressing basic and sound concerns about the fundamental operations of government, but he is cool with supporting the NSA to sweep into possession all forms of American citizen communication – hypocrite.
Instead, we here at SUA salute these people as heroes to emulate, not vilify. Why, because they did what they said they would do when campaigning, and they actually listened to the people of their districts, and they actually did what Peter King and the establishment always forget to do – that is to REPRESENT the people who elected them.
To people like Peter King, John McCain, and Mitch McConnell, doing nothing, for years, is a winning strategy. Earth to Peter King, doing nothing and hoping for miracles does not a good business plan make. In addition, ‘Mr. Kentucky’, Senator Mitch McConnell, is now the poster boy for buyouts, a position once held by the likes of Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson back when ObamaCare was shoved up our… err, I mean, down our throats..
People like the ‘Architect’ Karl Rove did what he does best as well, picking losing strategies, losing candidates, and losing Presidential elections. Rove did engineer the Bush Presidency, by the narrowest of margins, but what has he and the establishment done since but LOSE? During the whole shutdown, their sound bites were treasonous to their own causes and made for wonderful talking points for the left.
The Democrats rarely eat their young, Republicans have made a culinary art form out of it. Cruz and company were trying to do the best they could for America, Rove, McConnell and King are doing their best to win a political game, sad priority that one. Some say politics is the ‘art of the possible’, but true representatives never compromise their principles nor do they only seek political victories – that is why America is in a death spiral.
The Art of the Impossible
The strategy to repeal Obamacare by winning serial elections is not even a Hail Mary pass.
In considering the Republican retreat that ended the partial government shutdown, funded Obamacare, and unconditionally extended more credit on Uncle Sam’s tapped-out credit card, my friend Jonah Goldberg argues that we should be more understanding of Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s predicament. Politics, Jonah aptly observes, is the art of the possible, and McConnell had “no good options” when he led the GOP cave-in to all of President Obama’s demands — a decision that, McConnell insists, was not in any way influenced by the tidy $3 billion earmark thrown in for one of his pet Kentucky boondoggles.
I agree that we must be realistic about what was achievable in the Obamacare battle. What I don’t get, though, is why our sympathetic cast of mind must be from the GOP-establishment perspective alone. Aren’t we also obliged to be realistic about the options available to the Republicans who took seriously their campaign promises to do everything within their power — which includes their constitutional power of the purse — to stop Obamacare?
Virtually all congressional Republicans elected or reelected since 2010 ran on that promise. Stopping Obamacare is the cause that most animated the conservative base, without which there would be no Republican majority in the House. If Republicans expected to maintain that support, they had to act on that commitment.
Beyond promises, something also had to be done because Obamacare is a disaster for the productive part of the country. And, more urgently, that something had to be done now. This was not a manufactured crisis. Obamacare was set to commence on October 1. Consequently, Republicans had two options. Option One was the GOP establishment’s “win elections, then repeal” strategy: Do nothing for now; allow Obamacare to be implemented; assume its unpopularity would increase, creating a climate for extended, uninterrupted GOP electoral success, finally leading to a Republican Congress of such substantial majorities that an Obamacare repeal would pass both houses and be signed by a Republican president. As we shall see, core assumptions of “win elections, then repeal” require the suspension of disbelief.
Alternatively, there was Option Two: Because, as a matter of law, Obamacare could not proceed unless both congressional chambers agreed to fund it, and because Republicans control the House, House Republicans could deny it funding. The hope was that Obamacare’s unpopularity and patent unreadiness, coupled with the Democrats’ desire for the rest of government to be funded at today’s exorbitant levels, would pressure the Senate and the president to agree to a delay. Option Two would be tough to pull off, but it was not exclusive of Option One; and, contrary to conventional wisdom, there was the chance that the memory of any government shutdown would fade quickly while raising public consciousness about Obamacare’s downsides would have enduring electoral benefits.
Republicans tried Option Two and lost, at least for now. It is only natural, I suppose, that defeat brings myopic focus on the strategy that has been defeated. Thus, it is fair enough, in the post mortem, to emphasize how uphill a battle the defund/delay strategy faced. Nevertheless, since the point is to be realistic about what all the alternatives were, we must account for what GOP-establishment sympathizers keep glossing over: The utter implausibility of their preferred option.
It is repeatedly said that the crusade to defund Obamacare was delusional, that it never had a chance. That is an overstatement. Hail Mary passes are tried because they occasionally work. A lot of things have to go right, and the success rate is low. But a Hail Mary is a ray of hope when the clock nears zero, when something has to be done, and when you are out of better options.
So, were we out of better options? I think so. To my mind, if the defund plan was delusional, the GOP establishment’s “repeal Obamacare by winning elections” alternative is delusional squared.
Inertia is a powerful non-motivator. It is always extremely tempting to avoid the hard thing that must be done now by rationalizing that we’ll have both the capability and the stomach to do hard things at some indeterminate future time. That is the main appeal of the GOP-establishment strategy: It is outlandish, but unlike defund/delay, it is hard to disprove in the present because its impossible assumptions are conveniently imagined to occur several years from now, in a brighter and shinier future.
To buy it, you first have to believe that the GOP is suddenly going to become an electoral juggernaut. Mind you, we are talking about Republicans who have won the popular vote in a presidential election only once since 1988; who are rapidly losing the confidence of the conservative base that gave the GOP the historic midterm victory in 2010; and whose current priorities include a mass legalization of (Democrat-leaning) illegal immigrants that would make it increasingly difficult for Republicans to win elections in the future. We are to believe, moreover, that this electoral juggernaut is poised to take off in the cycle right after the GOP lost to Obama and lost congressional seats despite high unemployment and no economic growth.
To repeal Obamacare on the establishment plan, the GOP needs sudden and sustained electoral success — despite the high hurdle of media bias. At least two federal election cycles, and more likely three or more (i.e., at least four years, and probably six or more), will be necessary. Obama, after all, will still be president for three more years and will never sign a repeal bill. Even if a Republican wins the White House in 2016, and even if Republicans by then have held the House and won the Senate, the GOP will not have overwhelming congressional majorities.
Furthermore, unlike Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats are unified and disciplined. Knowing the press is the wind at their backs, they are disposed to use every parliamentary privilege available to a minority to obstruct a repeal of Obamacare. Remember, Democrats unilaterally enacted Obamacare at a time when it was very unpopular and seemed likely to cost them dearly at the ballot box. But they are influenced by movement progressives to a far greater degree than the Tea Party influences Republicans. So important was socialized medicine to the Left that Democrats rammed Obamacare through, regardless of the likely electoral consequences. They are going to fight repeal to the death.
These obstacles alone are enough to make “uphill” an understatement. But that’s not the half of it. To buy the GOP establishment’s “repeal by winning elections” alternative, you also have to believe that Republicans are going to repeal a vast entitlement that has, by then, been on the books, with millions of Americans drawing subsidies, for at least four, and more likely six or more, years.
Remember, Republicans are the guys who gave us a new Medicare prescription-drug entitlement when Medicare was already tens of trillions of dollars in debt. They are the guys who ran in 2012 as the saviors of Medicare — even though they well knew that slamming Obama over taking money out of Medicare would make it much more difficult to address Medicare’s unsustainable costs in the future. They are the guys who accept core premises of Obamacare: Republicans do not make the case that health care is like any other commodity in a free market rather than a corporate asset to be centrally managed. The disagreement between statist Democrats and the GOP establishment is aboutthe degree of government intrusion in health care, not the matter of government intrusion in principle. Republicans are also the guys who want to keep some of Obamacare’s core, anti-free-market elements — e.g., provisions that forbid denial of coverage owing to preexisting conditions and that keep “children” on their parents’ coverage until age 26.
The Democrats, the media, and all the Left will tirelessly portray any proposed repeal of Obamacare as a callous denial — a removal — of coverage from millions of underprivileged Americans, including those struggling with sickness. Moderates and “compassionate conservatives” already lecture us about the need to get real and make our peace with the welfare state; what will they be saying four or six or eight or who knows how many years from now? They will be arguing that Obamacare’s prodigious infrastructure is now part of our social fabric — that repealing it at this point (whenever that point happens) would be radical, the very antithesis of the Burkean conservative disposition. The GOP’s will to fight for repeal — which has never been as strong on action as it is on election-season rhetoric — will dissipate.
I said a few times prior to last summer that I did not believe the Supreme Court would invalidate Obamacare and that Republicans were making a big mistake putting all their hope in the prospect of a judicial repeal. Far greater emphasis should have been put on the need for a political repeal — including nominating a presidential candidate who was in a better position than the architect of Romneycare to make Obamacare a huge 2012 campaign issue. Pessimistic as I was, however, I had far greater confidence in the Supreme Court than I do in the prospect of Republicans repealing Obamacare once it has been up and running for a few years.
I believe there is no chance that will happen. I also believe the Republican establishment, in its heart of hearts, realizes how implausible this prospect is. A few times over the last two weeks — though not nearly as often as it should have happened — Republicans taking pot shots at Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and House conservatives were asked what their alternative plan was to stop Obamacare. The usual response was to shuffle feet and mumble about winning elections. It was a meek comeback because even these seasoned politicians were embarrassed to promise a bold repeal in, oh, 2017, 2019 . . .
If you accept, as I do, that something had to be done before October 1, the question is not whether defund/delay was a promising strategy. It is whether it was the most promising — however unlikely — of the available alternatives.
As I have argued before, I think defund/delay had a chance precisely because it was not repeal. The president was not being asked to erase what he sees as his signature achievement. Obamacare would have remained law. But it is a law that was already delayed a few years by design, so pushing for a delay for another year or two was hardly a pie-in-the-sky demand.
Significantly, Democrats were being asked to delay Obamacare under circumstances in which the program is undeniably not ready for implementation. The president could have been made to see that he could look reasonable by delaying and simultaneously mitigate what has been a disastrous rollout — “excruciatingly embarrassing,” as even Robert Gibbs put it.
Democrats were being asked to defund or delay Obamacare under circumstances in which Obama himself had already defunded and delayed major portions of it. The president could have been made to see that he was just being asked to do for everyone what he had already done for corporations, cronies, and Congress.
Contrary to what you’d believe from reading press accounts over the last two weeks, Obama has a history of reversing himself — to take just a few examples: on closing Guantanamo Bay, on a civilian trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, on the Bush tax cuts, even on the near-term desirability of single-payer health insurance. It was never delusional to believe Obama and congressional Democrats could be persuaded that political expedience counseled what Obama has famously called “flexibility.” But you could not get there absent intense political pressure.
To create the pressure necessary to give defund/delay a Hail Mary’s chance to work, Republicans had to demonstrate that they were so fearful of Obamacare’s harmful effects on the country that they were firmly resolved not to fund it. If this ended up meaning the government got (very partially) shut down, they had to tee that up in a way that could persuade the public that it was Obama, not the Republicans, who was forcing the shutdown. That could be done only by agreeing to fund all the rest of the government, and sticking together on the single, clear message that Obama could reopen the government anytime he wanted by signing the funding bills the GOP had willingly given him.
Could Democrats have been made fearful that the public would hold Obama responsible for keeping the government shut down solely over Obamacare in spite of the law’s unreadiness and unpopularity? It was a long shot in which three things had to go right: (a) The public had to see that the government shutdown was not as painful in reality as the media had predicted it would be; (b) Obamacare’s deleterious consequences had to begin to emerge such that they were seen as a bigger problem than the shutdown; and (c) the Republicans had to stay united — they had to keep pounding these themes with unwavering conviction.
In the event, things could not have gone better, in the Hail Mary sense, on the first two elements. The shutdown, in which four-fifths of the government continued running, did not have an impact on most Americans — and Obama’s obnoxious contrivances to make the shutdown seem painful only underscored that, in reality, it wasn’t so bad. The Obamacare rollout turned out to be worse than Republicans could have imagined — when not reporting on the system’s massive technological failures, and the tiny number of “exchange” applicants, the press was forced to report on sticker-shock as Americans finally grappled with eye-popping, family-budget-breaking price hikes for coverage.
But then there’s that third element. If Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and House conservatives can justly be accused of being delusional, it is in adopting a strategy that banked on Republican unanimity in the face of withering opposition. It never happened; the intramural squabble started even before the shutdown.
Democrats could have pulled this strategy off. Indeed, their media-annealed steel is why we have Obamacare in the first place. But not Republicans. Today’s Republican establishment is the George W. Bush “We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move” GOP — with all that portends, as Jonah expertly itemized in this 2004 G-File (i.e., before the GOP Congress and White House larded a few trillion dollars more onto the national debt).
Republicans do not have a unified position on Obamacare, on “entitlements,” or on the relationship between the citizen and the central government. Yes, it is an exaggeration to say there is no meaningful difference between the GOP establishment and Barack Obama — although I do not believe there is much difference between, say, John McCain and Hillary Clinton. But it is not an exaggeration to say the GOP establishment is more sympathetic to Obama’s case for the centralized welfare state than to the Tea Party’s case for limited government and individual liberty. And it is not an exaggeration to say that Beltway Republicans are more worried about what the media will say about them today than what the Tea Party may do to them every other year.
That is why the GOP establishment’s proclaimed strategy to repeal Obamacare by winning serial elections is not even a Hail Mary pass. It is politics as the art of the impossible.
Editor’s Note – Like him or loathe him, and many on the left do, but somehow, the Mother Jones web site got a hold of a taped recording of a private meeting of campaign staffers in Senator Mitch McConnell’s campaign discussing tactics to use if Ashley Judd ran for his seat. David Corn of Mother Jones wrote the original story which has since been updated here.
Then the tide of less-than-civil comments began to flow in the comments section of the Washington Times on “The Plum Line“, self-labeled as ‘Greg Sargent’s take from a liberal perspective’. He quotes CNN’s Scoop:
The FBI has been asked to investigate how Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, obtained a recording of political aides meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell discussing opposition research on Ashley Judd, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said Tuesday.
In the recordings, political operatives huddling at the senator’s campaign headquarters in Kentucky, are heard discussing potentially attacking Judd’s mental health, as well as her left-leaning politics, if she had decided to make a bid against McConnell, who’s running for a sixth term in office next year.
In a statement, McConnell campaign manager Benton said that “we’ve always said the Left will stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters is above and beyond.”
Red State chimed in from the right in a sort of review of the article at Mother Jones describing the events with a few ‘take-aways’. Tim Murphy at Mother Jones then even turned it into an attack on McConnell’s request for donations in light of the scandal and derided the campaign and McConnell of being petty and opportunistic:
Mitch McConnell is asking the FBI to investigate how Mother Jones’s David Corn got an audiotape of McConnell and campaign staffers discussing Ashley Judd’s potential liabilities as a candidate (this was before she decided not to run). CNN got the scoop:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is “working with the FBI” on how Mother Jones, a liberal magazine, obtained a recording of political aides meeting with McConnell and discussing opposition research on Ashley Judd, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton told CNN Tuesday.
In the recordings, political operatives huddling at the senator’s campaign headquarters in Kentucky, are heard discussing potentially attacking Judd’s mental health, as well as her left-leaning politics, if she had decided to make a bid against McConnell, who’s running for a sixth term in office next year.
“Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Senator McConnell’s campaign office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished will presumably be the subject of a criminal investigation,” Benton said in a statement.
The suggestion by the McConnell campaign that Mother Jones engaged in “Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters” is intriguing; it constitutes a suggestion that Mother Jones broke the law. To my knowledge, the McConnell campaign didn’t provide CNN with any evidence of this. (The Mother Jones story only says that a “recording” of the strategy session “was obtained by Mother Jones.”) It’s a serious charge, and if it was made without evidence by the campaign of the Senate minority leader — perhaps the most powerful Republican elected official the country — it’s a big deal.
It seems quite a reach to think that MoJo planted microphones in whatever room these people were in. What McConnell clearly wants to do here is intimidate MoJo and Corn. In the wake of the 47 percent tape, I’d imagine that waitpersons and service staff all over the country are going to record Republicans talking and maybe send Corn their tapes. Shouldn’t these people just make sure they have such meetings in somebody’s house?
And if McConnell and aides were just talking about normal-nasty oppo stuff, as some of his defenders are claiming this morning, then why bring the FBI into it? If that’s the case he and his people have nothing to be ashamed of or worried about. But plotting painting someone as mentally unstable is, in fact, a few ticks beyond normal nasty. They got caught and they’re trying to change the subject.
And finally let’s think about the ethics of a leader of the United States Senate trying to silence the press. That’s what is going on here, and it’s slimy.
Editor’s Note – Here’s what you voted for – nothing – more nothing from the White House. Actually it should be called a joke. The President keeps calling for a balanced approach, but when they negotiate, or in the case of Timothy Geithner, they present a laughable miasmic plan you have to laugh.
How can we take our leader serious if this is how he plans for the next four years. If raising taxes now without cuts, or a promise of cuts in the new year, what is balanced about that? He says he wants one higher tax number, then we see it is doubled. The lies just continue, and he is not even running for office again. How do we trust this kind of leader?
They talk of revenue enhancement (which of course means raising taxes on those dastardly rich people) but they will not offer any believable specifics on cuts – and what they did bring is tiny in comparison to the rise in taxes. It all avoids the third rail of cutting our bloated social programs.
Spending cuts are mandatory now, and that means real cuts, not a reduction in larger spending planned. Be careful of the words the President and his party use – its just so hypocritical, disingenuous, and misleading at best. Here is what the response was to the laughable, non-serious plan of the White House:
McConnell told the National Review that he “burst into laughter” as Geithner outlined the plan. The Republican said no offense was meant, and that it was simply a candid reaction to the proposal, which he characterized as one-sided and ridiculous over its calls for large increases in tax revenue, while being light on promises of the large spending cuts or entitlement reforms that many of McConnell’s colleagues have demanded.
If you live as a retired person on dividends, your income that you saved for is about to take a dive. Yes, you are a rich person if you earn over $250,ooo, or live off dividends. Meanwhile the President is still on the campaign trail to sell this tripe – come back Mr. President, time to lead, if you can. Put real numbers on the table, and then lead the way – demanding numbers from the Congress first is leading from behind – as usual.
This Unserious White House
The president makes the GOP a fiscal-cliff offer he knows they will refuse.
The White House this week finally explained just how serious it is about averting a fiscal cliff that could throw the country back into a recession. The answer: not serious at all.
The markets and the media in recent days have been operating on an optimistic belief that the administration simply will not let the country fall off the fiscal cliff. They’d best rethink. On Thursday, the president dispatched Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Rob Nabors to Congress to finally outline the White House’s offer to avert the coming tax hikes and sequester.
It was something out of Wonderland and Oz combined.
According to sources on Capitol Hill, the White House wants Republicans to pony up $960 billion in immediate tax increases, which will come from hiking the top marginal rates and increasing capital gains and dividends taxes. That is just for starters. The administration also wants the GOP to surrender an additional $600 billion in revenue via later tax reforms.
The president’s team specified noamounts or details on spending cuts. Rather, the White House wants more spending: at least $50 billion in new stimulus, an extension of unemployment insurance, a one-year deferral of the sequester, new money to refinance underwater mortgages, a Medicare-doctor fix . . . and a partridge in a pear tree.
Oh, the White House also wants Congress to give Mr. Obama the authority to increase the debt limit, whenever he wants, as much as he wants.
What do Republicans get in return? Next year, the White House will agree to talk to the GOP about cutting as much as $400 billion from entitlement programs. Maybe. If Democrats get around to it. Which they won’t—because they’ll have everything they’ve wanted.
How to put this tax-and-more-spending offer in perspective? It is far in excess of what the Democrats asked for in last year’s debt-limit standoff—when the political configuration in Washington was exactly the same. It is far more than the president’s own Democratic Senate has ever been able to pass, even with a filibuster-proof majority. It is far more than the president himself campaigned on this year.
But the president’s offer is very much in keeping with his history of insisting that every negotiation consist of the other side giving him everything he wants. That approach has given him the reputation as the modern president least able to forge a consensus.
Don’t forget: The man now engaged with Congress to work out a grand deal is the same one who could not pull over to his side a single Republican vote for his stimulus legislation, who had to ram through ObamaCare with procedural tricks, and whose inept handling of last year’s debt-ceiling talks ultimately led his fellow Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to isolate him from the final negotiations. This is not a history to inspire confidence.
Mr. Obama’s tendency to campaign rather than lead, to speechify rather than negotiate, has already defined this lame-duck session. The president has wasted weeks during which a framework for a deal has been in place.
Within two days of the election, Mr. Boehner had offered an enormous compromise, committing the GOP to provide new tax revenue, through limits on deductions for the wealthy. Mr. Obama campaigned on making “the rich” pay more—and that is exactly what Mr. Boehner agreed to give him.
All that was left for the president to do was accept this peace offering, pair it with necessary spending cuts, and take credit for averting a crisis. Mr. Obama has instead spent the past weeks campaigning for tax-rate hikes. He wants the revenue, but collected only the way he chooses. And on the basis of that ideological insistence alone, the nation is much closer to a crisis.
Talks that had been at a standstill may now crumble, thanks to the Geithner-Nabors proposal. The president is boxing in the Republicans—offering them a deal they cannot accept, a deal they can’t even be seen to be treating seriously. Mr. Boehner is legitimately interested in a bargain that will set the country on sounder footing. Yet the most immediate outcome of such an open slap from the White House will be to make even those Republicans who were willing to cut a deal harden their positions. Someone get the White House a copy of “Negotiating Tactics for Dummies.”
Then again, the most frightening aspect of the White House proposal is that it wasn’t an error. Perhaps the proposal was thoroughly calculated. This suggests a president who doesn’t care about the outcome of the cliff negotiations—who thinks that he wins politically no matter what. He’s betting that either the GOP will be far more responsible than he is and do anything to avert a crisis, or that the cliff gives him the tax hikes his partisans are demanding. Win-win, save for the enormous pain to average families across the country.
The Republicans will have to contemplate how to deal with such an unserious offer. But in presenting his demands, the president has now made very clear that there is only one side that is working in good faith.
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