Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Post-Modern Prometheus (UPDATE)

I've been watching the political theater that are the negotiations between the White House and Congress over the expiring Bush tax cuts and mandated sequestration with more than a little amusement.  Back in the summer of 2011, when Congress forced a deal upon the President that included a shadow-play "supercommittee" that did nothing, I could see the writing on the wall.  After the election, we would have a showdown which would be a replay of every stupid standoff between Congress and the White House since Obama took office.

This time, though, things are a bit different.

It appears the President has discovered a spine.  Winning re-election helped.  Winning re-election that included coattails that extended to the US Senate helped even more.  Winning re-election in which Democratic candidates across the country won far more votes than Republican candidates probably made him realize, "I don't have to take this crap from you!".  And so, he isn't.

What adds more than a little comedy to all this is the Republican leadership in Congress acts as if the election and the campaign that preceded it never happened.  Romney who?  Republicans promised what?  They have no memory of the tens of thousands of words they uttered over the months previous, except those about the President's "lack of leadership" and their allegations of duplicity.  With help from Beltway Blowhards, they utter no peep that this entire situation is of their own devising.  Did they, perhaps with good reason, believe in the summer of 2011 they would be dealing with a defeated President Obama?  Did they believe they would be anticipating a Republican Senate just over the horizon, a stronger GOP presence in the House, thus increasing the likelihood that even should Obama refuse to deal, they could pass new tax cuts at the beginning of a new Congress?

Well, none of that transpired.  Republicans ran on everything they've been doing for thirty years and the American people handed them their ass.  When Mitch McConnell laughed at Tim Geithner last week, he must have forgotten that Pres. Obama was offering Congress nothing more or less than the plan that won him a second term in the White House.  McConnell, who's record as minority leader should prevent him from holding any leadership position (if the Republicans were sane), was acting as if we hadn't just held an election, as if the President had never said there were certain things he was going to do, and others he would not do, and that McConnell could just go in front of microphones and offer a word salad and no one would notice.

On a side note, all these Republicans who screeched about the deficit being worse than the Soviet threat should be wetting themselves over the prospect of massive tax increases and enormous spending cuts.  It would certainly eliminate the deficit, now, wouldn't it.

The fact is the entire dance in Washington is something the Republicans created.  Obama has neither the need nor, it seems, the interest, to drag their collective chestnuts from the fire they started.  That he continues to act like a politician who won an election is not a mark against him; on the contrary, it is a sign that he gets it.  The huffing and puffing from the Republicans over what is, by and large, a meaningless bunch of nonsense - tax rates would rise the Clinton-era levels, hardly confiscatory; the spending cuts can only be enacted by Congress, and if they choose to spend more, then they will spend more - only shows how much the Republicans have bought their own bullshit.  No horrid monster ready to kill, they created instead the perfect post-modern political predicament - a meaningless pas de deux which has them dancing while the President stands back and laughs.

UPDATE:  Two things about David Brooks's latest.  Like Duncan says, "this involves Congress taking itself hostage and threatening to shoot the country".  Second, also as Duncan reminds folks on occasion, all this "Grand Bargain" nonsense is ridiculous.  There is, quite literally, nothing the current Congress might or might not do that would constrain or limit what future actions either future Congress's or Administrations can or cannot do.  If Brooks believes in Grand Bargains, he's an idiot.  If he doesn't, then he's a shill for a bunch of stupid hoodlums in Congress.  Either way, it's more of the same empty, meaningless, pomo politics-as-theater, that now includes people like Brooks being congratulated for saying something intelligent when they're actually being quite stupid.

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