So John Boehner’s big plan to cut the fiscal cliff Gordian Knot failed, then shattered like Narsil on the slopes of Mount Doom. Now we are in the Day of Recrimination, when the professional Republican set and their loyalists sneer down at the Tea Party rabble and the Tea Partiers are measuring Republican leaders for a suit made from hot tar and feathers. Meanwhile, the Democrats are so giddy with glee they’re dancing around like a group of four-year old kids in dire need of a potty break.
I’m not in a position to solve any of the fiscal cliff problems. Heck, I couldn’t be farther away from the loci of Republican or conservative power. As I learned last night on Twitter, I am in the distinct minority and, quite possibly, mentally defective. Take my observations here with a grain of salt. It’s entirely possible you might catch a bad case of dumb from me and do something crazy like run head-first into a brick wall or something.
1) It’s never a good idea to stick your thumb in the eyes of teammates whose help you will desperately need later. Boehner had to have some idea he’d need Amash, Gohmert, Huelskamp and the others to back his play. He also had to know his plan would put them in a very tough position with their supporters and they’d need to burn a considerable amount of political capital to keep those supporters off the backs of the entire Republican caucus. A responsible leader would have found a couple ways to give them a little extra cred so they wouldn’t have to burn quite so much of theirs when Plan B launched. Boehner, on the other hand, publicly embarrassed them then almost literally demanded their fealty. I wouldn’t have backed his play under those circumstances and, let’s face it, you wouldn’t have either.
2) I get the idea that if the House passed Plan B, it might put Harry Reid and President Obama in a tough spot, considering they already promised to ignore or veto anything the House sent them. That, of course, assumes Reid and Obama were telling the truth and would suffer dire political consequences if they weren’t. Does that seem like a smart assumption to you? What if they took Boehner’s bill, thanked him profusely and publicly, and passed it through? Well then you get a Republican party that not only signed on to a useless and punitive tax hike but actually originated it. Likelihood those taxes will come down any time soon? Nil. Chance America will trust Republicans in a couple years to quickly fix the problems those tax hikes will cause our already struggling economy? Zero.
3) We should consider, again, the likelihood that John Boehner and Barack Obama are playing two different games. I don’t doubt the Speaker wants to find a tidy political solution that involves compromise and bipartisanship. That’s his business. That’s what he’s done his entire career and while I intensely dislike what his brand of Republicanism has done to the country, I get what he’s doing. The President, on the other hand…well, what sort of track record as a politician, a negotiator, or a problem-solver does he have? It’s a lot more likely Barack Obama is playing the role he’s played his entire political life — partisan bomb-thrower — and his goal isn’t to deal with the fiscal cliff but to use it to do as much damage as possible to the Republican Party. I don’t think Boehner fully gets that yet. I sincerely hope he figures it out soon.
4) For those Republicans who ask, “Hey, Boehner-haters! Where’s your plan?”, it’s right here and it’s six weeks old. Stephen Green had a very similar idea at about the same time. I wanted to talk about it then, but the Republican faithful seemed a bit busy. Still, it was there.
(Photo Credit: snowlepard on Flickr)
UPDATE: Another thought occurs. The Republican leadership helped to build the Fiscal Cliff. How in the world did they not have at least two game plans to get us past it in reasonable shape? As I recall, the entire reason the thing exists was to make Barack Obama weaker so Mitt Romney could eat him up in November. Well, that didn’t happen, but was that the only option for which the GOP leadership prepared? It sure looks like it, and if that’s so, then everyone currently in charge of the Republican party ought to quit in disgrace. You never, ever, ever prepare for only one contingency. You always have a ready backup plan, a Plan B if you will, should your first weasel-clever plan go sideways.
John Boehner and his leadership compatriots got caught flat-footed. Again. They shouldn’t have.