Late Night: The First Rule of Cliff Jumping, by Hugo First
There have been a lot of posts here in the past few days about the prospective “grand bargain” being discussed by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators… and, by implied extension, the White House. As writers here have pointed out, the basic Republican idea is to get Democrats — including President Obama — to collaborate in their political suicide by taking the lead in endorsing massive spending cuts (under the concept of “jumping off the cliff together”), rather than standing up for a progressive agenda. Recent comments by Obama about “getting in the boat together so that it doesn’t tip over” have lent unpleasant credence to this theory.
But before readers feel the urge to jump off a more literal cliff, a few caveats are in order. For one thing, the notion that the grand bargain will be swiftly foisted on the American public under the shock doctrine seems a bit overblown, given that it may be months before the small bipartisan working group announces its agreement (if there is one), not to mention that time it would take for any deal to crawl its way through Congress.
Not only that, the Wall Street Journal article that has inspired the most recent round of hand-wringing has been corrected to clarify that the framework under discussion isn’t nearly as slanted toward spending cuts as originally reported (the amount of hoped-for revenue increases is $785 billion, not $180 billion). And that doesn’t include the prospect of the Bush tax cuts expiring in 2012, which is apparently being treated as a separate issue.
Moreover, the WSJ story notes:
Republican aides said Wednesday that for the Senate effort to win GOP support in the House, President Obama would have to publicly embrace it.
But aides involved in the negotiations said it is not clear how firmly the administration will back the effort. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is encouraging the talks, as is Bruce Reed, Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff. But the White House has stayed away from any formal role.
That’s a lot different from endorsing the results in advance. And remember, this is a White House that spent its first two years pathologically avoiding any firm public stance on legislative issues that hadn’t already been blessed by Congress, even with popular support behind them. So now they’re going to charge to the front and pressure legislators to pass something that’s extremely painful?
I grant that based on past evidence, they might be stupid enough. But would they even know how?