The Daily Beast had a fascinating story yesterday regarding budget discussions in Washington. President Obama is learning to be more aggressive in the wake of his re-election and is no longer trying to appease Republican lawmakers:
In the past, the modus operandi from the White House on tax and spending issues was a tone poem of tortured frustration, self-criticism, and bargaining. They’d make a middle-of-the-road proposal and then very quickly move off it, failing to appease Republicans and demoralizing the base. But this time is different. Now, the Republicans are compromising and demoralizing their base…
…”They’re in kind of a tough position now,” Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said on Fox News Sunday. “They’re trying to figure out how to find a way to support things that they know they’re gonna have to do. That’s going to be hard for them.” (Note: the very willingness of Geithner to appear on a Fox program is a sign of the administration’s newfound confidence.) Geithner pounded home the Obama administration’s talking point: we’ve put forward our plan. If the Republicans don’t like it, they should put forward their own. [Pols emphasis]
This approach would have made a lot of sense four years ago, and it probably would have prevented the health care debate from dragging on for 18 months. The strategic decision to ask Republicans, “What is your proposal?” is devastating in its simplicity, in part because the GOP is completely lost on the issue:
The reality should be seeping in to viewers of the Sunday shows that the Republicans don’t have a game plan. They don’t have a single, specific proposal to avoid the fiscal cliff. And even if they had one, they don’t have a roadmap to get there. They keep expecting Obama to come back with something more to their liking, which they’d also reject.
Many Republicans literally don’t understand what is happening. [Pols emphasis] Sen. Charles Grassley tweeted over the weekend that he was frustrated that President Obama hadn’t embraced the recommendation of the Bowles-Simpson Commission. Apparently, he is one of the many people in Washington who doesn’t understand that Bowles-Simpson recommended letting the Bush tax rates on the wealthy expire, while also proposing to cap or eliminate deductions primarily enjoyed by the wealthy.
Unfortunately for Republicans, the national narrative (and polling data) is not in their favor. The public isn’t buying the idea that the White House is the problem, which is particularly problematic when you have Republicans who don’t even understand some of the basic fundamentals. It’s become abundantly clear that the GOP will shoulder most of the blame if there is no budget decision.