From the diaries by Erick
Watching House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell negotiate with Barack Obama is like watching a drunk try to run across the Beltway. Whether it’s ObamaCare, the financial reform bill, the Kagan nomination, the disastrous Lame Duck agenda, the Senate rules battle, the pathetic “continuing resolution deal,” or the current debt limit fight, you know both of them will end up as a splotch on the road, marked by Barack Obama’s tiretracks.
Let me predict two tactics Obama will use:
ObamaTrick #1: ADDING CHIPS TO THE PILE
Democrats approach negotiations with a stack of demands they expect to bargain away. Republicans go to the table with the position they intend to end up with.
Who do you think’s going to win that negotiation?
Remember the “public option” which Democrats absolutely had to have? Hapless Republicans spent months battling it -– only to have it traded away for ObamaCare as we currently know it.
Feel good about that deal, huh?
Remember the Democrats’ absolute refusal to accept an extension of the Bush tax cuts that would go to the “wealthy”? Republicans drew their line in the sand on that issue -– only to have it bargained away in exchange for a tax extender bill written largely by Obama, the START Treaty, the repeal of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell,” a new entitlement, and a reenergized Obama administration risen from the electoral ashes.
Oh. And Obama also walked away with the GOP’s lunch money (the tax cut issue).
Remember the Senate Democrats’ threat to abolish the filibuster with 51 votes? Notwithstanding the parliamentary corruption that went into the passage of ObamaCare, the Republican negotiators, led by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, went to the negotiating table with no demands of their own. As a result, Republican procedural rights were curtailed even further, and Harry Reid went unpunished for his Madoff-like procedural tactics used to pass ObamaCare.
So will it be with the debt limit.
Currently, Democrats are “absolutely, positively” unwilling to accept a deal that will not raise taxes by $400 billion.
If Democrats can get feckless Republicans to agree to big hidden tax increases, like a recomputation of the Consumer Price Index, a bunch of user fees, or an end to the ethanol tax credit, it will be so much the better for them.
But what if Obama gets nothing more than a bill with short-term defense cuts and a bunch of illusory domestic spending cuts that don’t kick in until 2018? In exchange for raising the debt limit past the 2012 election by $2 trillion in order to fund bloated already-enacted Obama spending?
Will that be a GOP victory?
Boehner, egged on by the New York Times, will do another victory lap. But a $2 trillion debt limit increase, in exchange for virtually no actual spending cuts, will not be a victory.
Yeah. I know, I know. There’s another narrative which is being pushed by some: that Obama, faced with an intractable economy, wants the Republicans to kill the debt limit so that he can blame them for his problems.
Under this scenario, the only winning strategy for Republicans is to give in to all Democratic demands -– and raise the debt limit at all costs.
But if they did that, the GOP would face a rebellion from its base. And the notion that Obama wants the economy to tank because he thinks it would be possible to shift blame strains credulity.
So here’s a better idea:
First, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey needs to get repeated votes on his bill to require that interest on the debt be paid, even if the debt limit is not raised. This can be done because the cost of debt service is only roughly 6% of the federal budget, whereas 60-70% of the budget would continue to come in, even if the federal government can’t borrow a penny.
The Toomey proposal was rejected by Democrats, partly on the theory that it was unnecessary. But the likes of Ben Bernanke continue to demand the debt limit increase on the grounds that default is unthinkable. So Toomey needs to continue to pound his point into their little heads.
Second, Boehner should mimic some of Obama’s tactics.
Start out with a non-negotiable demand that none of the $2 trillion debt limit increase can be used to fund ObamaCare, which is certainly part of the upward pressure on health costs responsible for the additional borrowing demands.
Let the debt limit battle be over the wildly unpopular ObamaCare law.
Over and over again, election “experts” tell us that the 2012 elections will be fought over ObamaCare.
But you know what? If Republicans ignore the issue until October 15, 2012, they’re not going to have a whole lot of credibility.
Republicans promised they would work relentlessly to repeal the bill or parts of it. After an initial vote -– which GOP lawmakers publicly conceded was only a can’t-pass sop to their voters -– they dropped it.
And what about the non-stop hearings that were going to be held on ObamaCare? What happened to them?
In the meantime, Democrats continue to tweak ObamaCare, through legislation and regulation. The nominations bill, S. 679, currently pending in the Senate, has a big hidden amendment to ObamaCare in it.
It’s time for Republicans to demonstrate they care as passionately about repealing ObamaCare as Obama feels about preserving it.
ObamaTrick #2: CHARACTER ASSASSINATION
About once a year, I learn something interesting from the Bush retreads on Fox News.
This year, it was from Democratic strategist Bob Beckel, who, within the last few weeks, predicted that the bad economy would not deny Obama a second term because the Democrats would simply engage in a campaign of character assassination against the Republican nominee.
This is how Democrats maintained the Senate, after their efforts to campaign on ObamaCare failed miserably.
Republicans, led by Bush strategist Karl Rove, seem to be counting on this syllogism to knock off Barack: No president since Roosevelt has won reelection with an unemployment rate over 7.2%. Economists predict the unemployment rate in November, 2012, will be 7.8 to 8.2%. Ergo, absent some major factor, Obama will not be reelected.
To paraphrase JFK’s famous bromide on taxes: In an economic catastrophe, the rising flood will raise all Republican boats.
The problem with this theory is it rationalizes a scenario in which the congressional Republican leadership continues to screw up -– and suggests they can do so without throwing away the 2012 election.
There is a slight chance that this may not be wrong. But it is a VERY dangerous way of thinking.
For those who have watched what Obama and a sycophantic media can do to, for example, Sarah Palin, an electoral strategy that consists of hoping that America will go down the tubes is inadequate.
Republicans need to prepare the American people for Obama’s campaign of sleaze by running ads telling them what he’s planning to do. Then, when it actually happens, they can run ads saying “Aha! Told you so!”
Aside from that, the American people are prepared to believe that Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are slimebags.
Vaguely, they remember the economic fraud -– the lies –- the bribes -- the Ponzi schemes -– the secret meetings -– the deception -– the moral flip-flops -- that went into passing ObamaCare. They just need to be reminded.
We are now finding out that promises that everyone knew weren’t true were, in fact, not true.
The McKinsey study now predicts that 78,000,000 Americans will lose the insurance they currently have. Compared to Obama’s repeated projection (“zero”), 78,000,000 is greater by a factor of infinity.
We also know that, contrary to Congressional Budget Office projections, premiums are not staying the same under ObamaCare. They rose, in many cases, close to double digits in the first year.
And, as to allegations concerning GOP friendship with the evil insurance companies, Republicans weren’t the ones who gave Big Insurance the biggest bribe in human history -- the individual mandate -– in order to silence any potential “Harry-and-Louise ads.” That would be Barack Obama.
The average insurance policy -– even before Barack Obama’s gold-plated bells-and-whistles policies have kicked in -– runs nearly $5,000 for a single person and $13,770 for a family of four.
Do kids earning $50,000 a year -– living from paycheck to paycheck -– saddled with huge burdens on debt -– understand they will be hit by this freight train unless Obama is defeated?
No. They don’t. But the GOP has an obligation to tell them.
And all it will take is for Republicans to refuse to be the unresponsive victims of character assassination by people whose bribes, fraud, and lies should have put them in prison.
Is that too much to ask?
by Michael E. Hammond, former General Counsel Senate Steering Committee 1978-89.