Please be encouraged by the sensible words of Quin Hillyer :

Overall, then, tax-rate policy isn’t optimal after the deal, but it’s not terrible either. It’s better, as already explained, than anything the Gingrich Congress achieved . . . .

And whereas President Obama was able to delay the sequestration by threatening Republicans with the tax portion of the fiscal “cliff,” he no longer will enjoy that leverage. If Congress does nothing at all, no taxes will rise, but spending automatically will be cut by about $86 billion.

In the intervening two months, Republicans need merely pass a bill through the House removing defense spending from sequestration, putting the onus on the president to buck his own Secretary of Defense by opposing the bill. Other than that, Republicans can merely sit and wait; they win this battle on spending levels if no other bills pass.

Finally, the two intervening months give conservatives time to regroup and refurbish tactics and communications, without threat of an automatic tax hike. Those two months may be the best benefit of the whole deal.

The Republicans, of course, didn’t win the showdown at the gap either. It was like the first day of Gettysburg. Here’s hoping the Republicans don’t try some Pickett’s charge on the second or third day either. Elections, as Pete says, have consequences, and their forces are reduced. Lee’s army (to continue the lame comparison) was in much better shape than the Republican one.

Quin is right that the Republicans have to act decisively and cleverly to “remove defense spending from sequestration.” If they can do THAT, then they have a strong defensive position. If nothing happens, they win. Taxes won’t go up, and domestic spending will go way down. So our allegedy hyper-energized, hyper-progressive president can’t get any of his evildoing done without their cooperation. It wouldn’t require Republican tactical geniuses to get him to agree to some significant spending cuts, although it would be hardly the time to achieve real entitlement reform. (The Republicans don’t even have a consensus on what real entitlement reform would look like—although Yuval and Pete do. And so they haven’t sold some plausible plan to the American people.)

Most of all, the Republicans have to be using this two-month window “to regroup and refurbish their tactics and communications.” Let’s face it; they haven’t had much of either since the election. In a perfect world, Yuval and Pete would be called in.

For a second-term president to be as progressive as Obama wants to be, he’d have to achieve a very atypical victory for his party in the 2014 election. If that actually happens, it would be quite the failure of Republican tactics and communications. I don’t think it will happen. Evidence to the contrary would be the Republican bungling of the recent Senate races, turning certain victory into rather ridiculous defeat.

The Republicans have to be looking to 2014 and even 2016, of course. But for now, having messed up the recent election, they have to compromise intelligently with the president.

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Articles by Peter Lawler

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