July 16, 2011

What Republicans' 3 favorite words should be

"President's own commission."

Simpson-Bowles debt commission
Since the Republicans came out yesterday with another plan to move forward, seemingly in defensive mode yet again, this post may be a day late.  But it's not going to be a dollar short.  I was thinking of a plan yesterday morning to out maneuver the president and still get something done on the debt ceiling and government spending. My idea - go long. Offer Obama something even bigger than what he asked for because he doesn't really want something big.  He wants something that makes him look big.  So make him look small and petty because after all, he's putting politics ahead of the nation's interests.  He's all about re-election.  And his drive to include tax increases as part of a package is all about pleasing the left base, about stoking class warfare and the cuts are about appealing to the middle.  He's rounding up voter groups.  Never mind all of his lack of substance, he's in it for the optics.  So destroy the optics.

Give President Obama a BIG cut and throw in a token tax increase on green energy with massive spending cuts. If the President wants big, offer him big. Really big. Dare him to say it's not that serious. At least you get great sound bites for a double flip flop. Mega budget proposals and a clean debt ceiling increase with no conditions, to we need massive cuts to we can't do cuts that big. I can see the tag line for the anti-Obama ads now - Not what you expected? This is John Kerry 2.0.

Charles Krauthammer meanwhile suggested something small with no tax cuts that buys time and leaves ownership with the President to veto buying time to get a better deal. It achieves the same goal - call out the president on how not serious he is on this issue of debt reduction.  Remember, he's positioning himself - if he didn't have to deal with debt reduction, if he still had a Democrat Congress, he would have happily taken a condition-free debt ceiling increase of a few trillion.

Both my plan would and that put forward by Krauthammer will inevitably be derided as non-starters, not serious and merely political. That's okay, because it sets up the GOP for the obvious question: How many plans do we need to put forward Mr.President?  You've put forward platitudes and speeches, but not a single plan.  No specifics.  Your own appointed debt commission made numerous recommendations, many of which we've tried to put forward, to an unreceptive Democrat Senate and Executive.  We will not abdicate our responsibility to the country and walk out of the room, this is too serious for such shenanigans.  And I'd end it with a 'Booyah!' just for kicks.

Krauthammer is absolutely right about one thing - the presidency is the big prize in all this for long term fiscal stability.  Without the presidency on board for fiscal responsibility, there can be no path to fiscal sanity.  2012 is the key for the GOP.  Conservatives need to get through to 2012 allowing as little damage as possible and then win.  Afterwards, real fixes can go forward.

So here is the crux of a short term, get the most you can solution. Offer Obama both my big cut idea and say if you don't sign it we will go with the Krauthammer solution to keep social security checks going out. It's an ultimatum disguised as a choice between two somewhat palatable GOP options. Neither option is ideal but both are steps in the right direction. If Obama declines the big offer and then vetoes the smaller option he loses all credibility he had but never really deserved on deficit reduction.  This is politics.  Purity is important to the nation, but winning is paramount to be able to fix the problems.  Get some talking points working in your favor.  Make it harder for the press to negatively spin your talking points.  And sprinkle the offer with frequent comments about the findings of the President's own commission and stir well. See what happens. 

No guts, no glory.

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