Everybody needs to read William Voegeli’s awesome post on how Obama is running circles around the congressional Republicans in the public argument over the debt ceiling increase and cutting the deficit. Somehow Obama is now the one who is serious about controlling the deficit. The Republicans have allowed him to posture as the proponent of a 4 trillion dollar (80% spending cut) deal in public even as the Democrats are getting away with proposing less than 400 billion in cuts at the negotiating table. It isn’t just Obama’s duplicity (though he is good at that.) This is amazing Republican incompetence. How did it come to this? The Republican leadership is trying to win swing voters and what Voegeli calls “no-retreat, no-surrender” Republicans. So we get the McConnell plan to let Obama issue new debt without any budget cuts to allay the default fears of the first group and a doomed vote on a balanced budget amendment that caps federal spending at Ryan Path To Prosperity levels as a way to give symbolic sustenance to the second group.
There is no way out of this trap other than by articulating a positive vision of fiscal consolidation that can simultaneously win support from both swing (I prefer persuadable) voters and committed limited government conservatives. Neither Boehner, nor McConnell, not Bachmann can provide this. Some Republicans have been able to do this at the state level in constituencies where they have to succeed among non-right-leaning voters in order to win. But none of those Republicans are running for President in 2012.