Friday, November 12, 2010


I thought the Beltway conventional wisdom might be that the Alan Simpson/Erskine Bowles deficit recommendations were dead on arrival, but there seems to be a sense out there that they could really happen -- or at least they could if the unwashed rabble didn't step in and screw everything up. Chuck Todd said as much to Brian Williams on NBC last night (clip below):

BRIAN WILLIAMS: ...Where's the political will going to be found to do something real this time?

CHUCK TODD: Well, the political will's going to have to come from the public in this case. They're frankly looking for cover. In private conversations, you talk to the Democratic deficit hawks and the Republican deficit hawks and all of them admit, you know what? What Bowles and Simpson did in this joint presidential commission was pretty bold, pretty aggressive, and pretty
doable. The question, though: will there be political will among those publicly and will the public support the idea, and that's the big question. If they do, and the White House grabs it, Brian, this thing could actually have legs.

"This thing could actually have legs" -- yikes. Really? The New York Times seems to be thinking more or less along the same lines, implying that the recommendations are acceptable to right-thinking and reasonable people by defining the opposition as the uncivilized mob (or, rather, two mobs):

Debt Plan Ideas Draw Scorn of Liberals and Tea Party

... Among Democrats, liberals are in near revolt against the White House over the issue, even as substantive and political forces push Mr. Obama to attack chronic deficits in a serious way. At the same time, Republicans face intense pressure from their conservative base and the Tea Party movement to reject any deal that includes tax increases, leaving their leaders with little room to maneuver in any negotiation and at risk of being blamed by voters for not doing their part.

(I like the notion that there are liberals, "the conservative base," and teabaggers, and then there are "voters." See, only moderates are "voters," and only crazy, marginal extremists are angry about this plan.)

... So riled are some liberals about the Bowles-Simpson plan that, privately, several suggested that if Mr. Obama were to embrace its major parts, he would invite a primary challenge in 2012.

... conservative groups condemned its proposals to raise revenues.

...The Web site of Americans for Tax Reform, which is led by the influential antitax activist Grover Norquist, warned Republicans bluntly, "Support for the commission chair plan would be a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which over 235 congressmen and 41 senators have made to their constituents."

Republicans would also be looking over their shoulders at the growing ranks of the Tea Party. Ryan Hecker, from the Houston chapter, said it would be "a big mistake" for Republicans to go along with tax increases. "I think that is something that would not sit well with members of the Tea Party," he said....

The notion that "voters" -- i.e., folks in the middle -- would happily go along with the elimination or evisceration of the mortgage interest deduction, big cuts in Medicare, or a rise in the retirement age is absent from this story. (Never mind the notion that teabaggers might be upset about this.)

So the conventional wisdom mongers would apparently like to see this thing pushed over the goal line. They want us to believe it's extremist groups who are opposed.

I think elitist right-wingers know better. After an initial flurry of Obama-bashing in response to the report, I see that the Fox News homepage has gone silent about it. Ditto the Fox Nation homepage. John Boehner doesn't seem to have a word about it on either of his Web sites.

They know this thing is poison for them. They don't want to support it, and yet they don't want to be upfront about their opposition. They want Obama to take all the hits -- for the benefit cuts and the tax increases -- because they know it isn't a small fringe that opposes the former (reasonably) and the latter (often irrationally), it's the vast majority of their voter base. And a lot of people who don't vote for them, or who vote for them only once in a while (people they hope will vote for them again).

I think they'll continue to say as little about this as they can get away with. If anyone gets burned by this, it'll be Obama, because he doesn't handle the politics as well as Republicans do. This thing will die, teabaggers and seniors (and, oh yeah, liberals) will blame him for it, as the GOP lies low and, when it's all over, goes back to talking about balancing the budget by defunding ACORN.

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