After months of debate and rhetoric centered on the Fiscal Cliff, Republicans gave in to President Obama. They completely caved. Democrats must be ecstatic. This was a huge win for them and they should be proud. I dislike Obama more than ever but we have to respect strength and right now, Obama’s got it. Republican leaders have somehow reasoned that if they were allowed to cave here, they would have more capital to expend six weeks from now in preventing the President from increasing the debt ceiling.
In light of that upcoming debate, there are three lessons that learned this week that need to be accounted for if we are to create a winning formula for the debt ceiling.
1.) Obama has become a man. The President’s first term was defined by weakness, mistruths and an inability to lead. Not anymore. On this tax increase, Obama led. He told us for the past year what he was going to do and for the most part, he completely delivered. He raised taxes on everyone — rich (rates) and poor (Social Security) alike. He drew a line in the sand and he didn’t give in to Republicans. He didn’t blink. He didn’t show that he was sweating. He looked in our eyes and said that he wasn’t afraid to go over the cliff. He played chicken with Republicans and he won.
The President now says that the Debt Ceiling is not up for debate. He is going to play chicken again. There is blood in the water. Obama is going to tell the American people that Republicans are preventing them from getting their SS checks. He will use fear and deception and whatever else it takes to win. The President has learned how to play hardball. Weak leaders like McConnell and Boehner, if they are given the reigns by their Caucus are not going to be able to stand up to him. This is the president we can expect next month. We are going to need a tougher Congress even though the majority shrinks tomorrow.
2.) Republican leaders are running out the clock. John Boehner couldn’t cut a tax increase in the House. So Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell went to work seeking to bend over for Harry Reid. When Harry Reid cut off negotiations with McConnell, it is being reported that McConnell sought out Joe Biden to help him raise taxes on all of us. It is pretty incredible if you think about it. Mitch McConnell had no intention of having a showdown with Democrats; he was simply biding his time until the clock ran so close to the end that no one could question his motives. This happened last summer.
The Republican leadership playbook is to run out the clock on conservative activists. The plan from henceforth is to spout rhetoric that makes the base optimistic until the last 36 hours. Then, in back room deals, Leadership call up Democrat friends to hammer out a tax increase and vote on it in the middle of the night before constituents can lodge complaints. Be ready, we are going to get the rhetoric but it will be the final hours that count. This is what we can expect from Boehner and McConnell next month.
3.) We can’t trust our guys. Almost all Republican Senators voted for this bill. Even Pat Toomey and Ron Johnson – the tea party Senators voted to increase taxes. Grover Norquist, fearful that he could be blamed or that he could lose power signed off on the tax increase. The entire Caucus got together and voted on a bill that had $41 dollars of tax increases for every $1 cuts. It is almost unimaginable.
With this in mind, we now know that our own representatives are more afraid of Obama demonizing them in the press, than they are of activists in their state or districts. Or worst, they believe that going over the fiscal cliff for a couple of days would have been worse for America than throwing in their lot with Obama and the McConnell tax increases. This has to be something we can expect from Republican Senators from henceforth.
We are still in the midst of the morning after hangover, so things seem pretty grim. But the same truths apply post-debacle as pre-debacle. Obama’s legacy is at risk every time the economy hangs in the balance on one of these bills, so if the House could have the guts to stand up for what is right, they could win. The only change in the dynamic is an emboldened and undoubtedly stronger Obama.
But we have seen the enemy and it is us. At least we know to look out for friendly fire next month.