I am now embarrassed for the House Republicans. This weekend, we learned first that Speaker Boehner had ceded a foundational principle of the Republican Party and offered up higher tax rates as part of a deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” Today, we learn that he offered hiking the debt ceiling as well, priming the deficit pump for at least another year. By the end of the week, he’ll probably just hand over the keys of the RNC to Obama.
This really is becoming unseemly. Within hours of the close of the polls last month, the GOP offered up tax increases to reach a “fiscal cliff” deal. Since that time, the entire debate has revolved around how much taxes will go up and who would shoulder the burden. There is always a rhetorical nod to the need to cut spending, but nothing concrete on that front has emerged.
Remember that painful scene in the movie Swingers, when the character Mike left a long, rambling voice mail message for a girl he had recently met? It was funny, obviously, but you wanted to reach through the screen and force him to stop talking and end the call. So it is with Speaker Boehner.
The Speaker slides from camera to camera, basically pleading with Obama to negotiate a deal. When he is met with silence from the White House, he offers to concede more Republican principles if we can just get to the spending cuts part of the negotiations. We, of course, never get there because Obama has no incentive to cut a deal. Going over the “cliff” gets him massive tax hikes and automatic spending cuts, primarily in defense. The “fiscal cliff” is essentially a DNC wish list.
The GOP, however, now owns these negotiations. Every few days they offer up some new concession. These are met by unnamed sources in the White House stating that talks are moving forward, yet never a response from President Obama. The Democrats aren’t negotiating. They don’t want a deal. Yet, the GOP, by publicly negotiating with itself, is poised to take the fall when we go over the “cliff”.
The GOP, led by Speaker Boehner, has made a strategic miscalculation in these talks. They have narrowed the debate to address a specific set of policies, rather than engage the public in a larger debate about the appropriate size of government. They have failed to recognize that Obama doesn’t want a deal. They have failed to attack Obama for taking us over the “cliff”.
By openly making so many concessions over the “fiscal cliff”, the public believes that the entire issue has to do with whatever the GOP is doing. To the public, they are the only party talking about this issue. When we inevitably go over the “cliff”, the public will chalk it up to the GOP.
Please, GOP, stop talking and hang up the phone.