Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Bobo grumbles about Republicans - and says Democrats are ready to embrace fanaticism!

David "Bobo" Brooks manages to get favorable attention because he occasionally says things that sound sensible. The problem is they typically come immersed in praise from whatever policies the real existing Republican Party are pushing at the moment.

In The Mother of All No-Brainers New York Times 07/04/2011, he has one of those moments:

But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
Sounds like he's recognizing that the Reps are acting loony and irresponsible, right? Especially when he follows it up by saying, "The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms." He sounds especially heretical when he says, "The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency."

But, as usual, there's less to Bobo's seeming criticism of the Republican Party than one might think from those quotes. He's basically crowing over how the Obama Administration is letting the Republicans slap them around, in pursuit of that postpartisan harmony that always seems to be moving farther and farther into the distant horizon:

Republican leaders have also proved to be effective negotiators. They have been tough and inflexible and forced the Democrats to come to them. The Democrats have agreed to tie budget cuts to the debt ceiling bill. They have agreed not to raise tax rates. They have agreed to a roughly 3-to-1 rate of spending cuts to revenue increases, an astonishing concession.

Moreover, many important Democrats are open to a truly large budget deal. President Obama has a strong incentive to reach a deal so he can campaign in 2012 as a moderate. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has talked about supporting a debt reduction measure of $3 trillion or even $4 trillion if the Republicans meet him part way. There are Democrats in the White House and elsewhere who would be willing to accept Medicare cuts if the Republicans would be willing to increase revenues.
Why should the Republicans compromise when the Democrats are cheerfully agreeing to enact cuts that will slow an already weak economy and damage the interest of the Democratic Party's core constituencies? That way, the Republicans get some of the cuts they want, then they can campaign against the Democrats for making the cuts and because the economy is getting worse. They are right to think that's an awesome prospect. Bobo's right that it isn't a responsible attitude in a larger sense. But how is today's Republican Party more of a wrecker party than it has been for the last two decades? Because today more of their activists like to dress up in colonial-era costumes?

Here's the downright laughable part of Bobo's little analysis:

Over the past week, Democrats have stopped making concessions. They are coming to the conclusion that if the Republicans are fanatics then they better be fanatics, too.
We've got Democratic elder statesman Bill Clinton out there at the Aspen Institute get-together (Aspen Ideas Festival) telling Obama to hang tough in these negotiations - by agreeing to make a bunch of cuts without the Republicans agreeing to anything. Oh, and Bill thinks corporate tax rates are too high! (Alexander Eichler, Bill Clinton: Lower The Corporate Tax Rate For Debt-Ceiling Deal Huffington Post 07/05/2011) The latter is a current Republican ploy: eliminate "loopholes" in exchange for lower tax rates; the loopholes can then be quietly re-established in following years.

And the Obama Administration is offering cuts to Medicare and even bigger cuts to Medicaid, to show that liberals are willing to deny health care to poor people, too (Robert Pear, Administration Offers Health Care Cuts as Part of Budget Negotiations New York Times 07/04/2011).

Yeah, those Dems are embracing fanaticism, aren't they? Shoot, before you know it they'll be putting up red hammer-and-sickle flags at the National Cathedral!

It's never been a question whether the Republicans will raise the debt ceiling. The Administration's decision to bargain with the Reps over it was a conscious decision to enact foolish cuts in the middle of a protracted economic slump in line with the Herbert Hoover economics the elites of both parties embrace today. The real default danger is that now that they have seen how badly the Obama Administration can be played, the Reps will push their brinkmanship too far and some of the financial speculators will really start freaking out and do some actual damage to the financial system. Coupled with repercussions from the Greek debt crisis, which could go south any time, it could cost some of the Republicans' patrons big bucks.

By the way, it's this prospect Bobo is addressing when he says, "The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency." Search and see if you can find any place Bobo made such a direct statement of condemnation of the Cheney-Bush torture program.

Bobo's column gives some ideological cover to the few Republicans in the House who will eventually have to vote for the debt ceiling adjustment. And it lets him score a few "sensible conservative" points. Still, this is the guy who gushed over the Ryan Plan as marvelous example of Republican seriousness and adult behavior. That would be the crackpot Ryan plan that doesn't hold together under even modest scrutiny. What Bobo says of Tea Party economics is also true of the Ryan Plan he greeted with such enthusiasm: "The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name."

And when Michele Bachmann wins the Republican nomination, Bobo will be there on the PBS Newshour telling us with his studied calm, contemplative tone, explaining how she has matured as a candidate and has skillfully appealed to the Tea Party/Christian Right constituency while rejecting some of the more foolish ideas of those un-serious Reps he's discussing in his column.

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