Friday, January 14, 2011


I've said for years that Republicans can't govern -- all they really know how to do is divide the country and demonize Democrats and liberals (though they are pretty effective at passing legislation that lines the pockets of their contributors). Now Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review takes to the op-ed page of The New York Times to openly admit that Republicans can't govern and can't lead -- or at least they don't have the guts to try. What's more, they shouldn't even bother! Oh, and it's everyone else's fault, not their own!

...Reforming [Medicare and Social Security] is vital to our nation's long-term fiscal health -- which is why Republicans should ... leave the issue alone. Reform is impossible this year or next unless President Obama takes the lead on it. What's more, Republicans have no mandate for reform, and a failed attempt will only set back the cause.

Some Republicans are understandably eager to take on these entitlements. "The third rail is not the third rail anymore," Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, said in December.

Maybe he's right. But Republicans have gotten a painful shock every time they have decided it's finally safe to take on entitlements. Ronald Reagan suffered a defeat in his first year when he tried cutting Social Security's early retirement benefits. Newt Gingrich's 1995 Republican revolution fizzled when President Bill Clinton fought him over Medicare cuts. President George W. Bush's effort to reform Social Security in 2005 ended any political momentum he brought to his second term.

In other words: Yeah, we said over and over and over again in the last two years that we're going to be the bestest fiscal stewards in this country ever, the hawkiest of deficit hawks; we're going to take on the tough challenges, and we hate big government ... but, er, um, if we actually do try to alter entitlement programs in a way that follows logically from our own incessant rhetoric, well, voters will be mean to us! And for us, that will really, really suck!

Unless, as Ponnuru says, President Obama sticks his neck out first -- and if he doesn't, well, then inaction is all his fault. Republicans are completely, totally blameless!

... If Mr. Obama delivers a good-faith proposal for Social Security, for example in this month’s State of the Union address, then by all means Republicans should offer a serious counterproposal and, depending on their differences, negotiate. If he doesn't, then Republicans should wait on a new president in 2013....

There is no point to Republicans' endangering their seats for legislation, however worthy, unless they have a good shot at getting a presidential signature on it....

Our seats! Our precious seats! They're way more important than the principles of fiscal prudence to which we constantly pay lip service!

So, given the fact that voters jealously defend their stupid entitlements, and Obama probably won't take it on the chin on our behalf, we should just do nothing -- and blame him, and them. We should kick the can down the road for two years -- by then, I'm sure we'll have a new excuse for failing to live up to our alleged principles.

And I'm sure I'll be back in the pages of the Times to explain what it is. In a very, very principled way.

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