Political Animal


November 30, 2012 9:58 AM Who’s “Serious” Now?

By Ed Kilgore

The President’s formal opening offer on a fiscal deal to avoid year-end appropriations sequestrations and a full expiration of the Bush tax cuts hit Capitol Hill last night, and congressional Republicans are outraged that he offered pretty much what he’s been publicly saying he’d offer from the moment the talks began. Indeed, the offer is thought to be a “slap in the face” because it did not include the concessions Republicans have been demanding for moving even an inch on taxes, most notably highly specific spending cut proposals that could give bipartisan cover to the GOP’s most avaricious dreams.

In terms of the thinking at the White House, it seems Ezra Klein has nailed it again:

Perhaps the key lesson the White House took from the last couple of years is this: Don’t negotiate with yourself. If Republicans want to cut Medicare, let them propose the cuts. If they want to raise revenue through tax reform, let them identify the deductions. If they want deeper cuts in discretionary spending, let them settle on a number. And, above all, if they don’t like the White House’s preferred policies, let them propose their own. That way, if the White House eventually does give in and agree to some of their demands, Republicans will feel like they got one over on the president. A compromise isn’t measured by what you offer, it’s measured by what the other side feels they made you concede.
The GOP is right: This isn’t a serious proposal. But it’s not evidence that Obama isn’t serious. He’s very serious about not negotiating with himself, and his opening bid proves it. Now that they’ve leaked his initial offer, the next question is obvious: What’s their offer?

Answering that question is problematic, for the very interesting reason that what Republicans want most—benefit cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and if possible Social Security—is what they want least to identify themselves with in any kind of public way.

Already, Rush Limbaugh is telling Republicans they should just cancel negotiations and let Obama take total responsibility for whatever happens. To the extent that Obama’s strategy involves forcing Republicans to very openly identify themselves with very specific and very unpopular domestic spending cuts before he deems them as being “on the table,” Rush will soon have some “serious” company.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on November 30, 2012 10:11 AM:

    This answers the question, "Is our Democrats learning?"

    Apparently - YES!!!


  • T2 on November 30, 2012 10:11 AM:

    Listening to McConnell and Boner, it's like we've stepped into The Time Machine. They never change, because they can't. It's always like this: The president makes some proposals, the GOP calls them worthless. They make no counter proposals (because they know the public won't like them). They blame the presidentf for the stalemate. Their Game Plan is exactly the same as it has been, as if no election took place. Their Game Plan is to continue to try and subvert the economy, blame Obama, and to ensure the top 2% get richer. That is really all this is about.....again.

  • sjw on November 30, 2012 10:17 AM:

    Fiscal cliff? Let's go over it. Raising the debt limit? Invoke the 14th amendment. Filibuster reform? Just do it.

  • bigtuna on November 30, 2012 10:20 AM:

    What total asses. Did they not listen to what was said during the campaign? I read somewhere that this proposal, in addition to being what was said during the campaign, is what was given to them several weeks ago; there is no surprise here - it is essentially the third version of the same damn message. It is all show and bluster.

    And, didn't Obama already agree to, and sign, a bill called, hmmmm - what was it? Ah! The Budget Control Act of 2011, which has - - about $917 bn of cuts in it; @1 bn were to be in the 2012 FY budget.

    And I think there is another 1.1 T in cuts in that bill. SO if Obama proposes 400 bn more in cuts, that would bring cuts that he proposes or HAS signed to 2.4 trillon, which will drop discretionary spending to the lowest amount, relative to GDP in years.

    It would be good if the DEM noise machine would make this point.

  • martin on November 30, 2012 10:22 AM:

    Ok, it took for years for the President to learn to not negotiate with himself. Have the rest of the Dems learned,or are we headed to some new Gang of Six hellhole? Obama also seems to have learned he has to go out and sell his plan to the public. Will he be willing to break a few knees in the process.

    And, of course, he must ask himself: What Would President Bartlett Do?

  • forward motion on November 30, 2012 10:29 AM:

    Republicans in Congress are revealing themselves to be the weasel cowards that they are. They want cuts, but do not want to be the ones bringing the cuts to the table.

    Pffft. If they won't have the courage of their convictions, why should anyone do their work for them?

  • Grumpy on November 30, 2012 10:34 AM:

    Already, Rush Limbaugh is telling Republicans they should just cancel negotiations and let Obama take total responsibility for whatever happens.

    Fine. Whatever happens is tax rates go up, and now Obama gets to ask Republicans to cut taxes for everyone except the rich. How many will refuse?

  • the seal on November 30, 2012 10:51 AM:

    If house republicans are this terrified to say what they mean, the rather mild filibuster reforms being discussed might just make McConnell and crews head explode every time they tried to shut down the will of the majority. he he he.......

  • Robert on November 30, 2012 10:57 AM:

    I see some weak kneed Dems starting to stammer and hem and haw...Blue Dogs be damned...

  • Josef K on November 30, 2012 10:58 AM:

    Already, Rush Limbaugh is telling Republicans they should just cancel negotiations and let Obama take total responsibility for whatever happens.

    Amazingly, and for the second time today, I am in complete agreement with someone I would rather feed to rabid wolverines than actually speak with. I sincerely and honestly hope Boehner and McConnell (or their caucus, at least) take Rush's advice to heart and just quit this farce.

    What better way to demonstrate "the fiscal cliff" is just rhetoric, especially when the 'damage' will be so difficult to actually perceive?

  • Perspecticus on November 30, 2012 11:09 AM:

    "Already, Rush Limbaugh is telling Republicans they should just cancel negotiations and let Obama take total responsibility for whatever happens."

    Newt, too. S'funny, after the first election, Rush wanted Obama to fail. This time out it's the entire country.

    Hey, it's great advice. If the GOP refuses to negotiate anything at all anytime ever, the public is sure to blame Obama. I add to Rush's advice that all future Republican campaigns for office should rely soley on internal and partisan polls to determine how a particular campaign is going. Can't fail.

    Letting Newt 'n Rush guide your actions... what could go wrong?

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on November 30, 2012 11:16 AM:

    I'm sorry, but since the election I sheepishly admit that I've been out of the loop on politics. But to summarize the quick glimpses of political news I've been catching here there:

    Obama wants to do as voters overwhelming felt he should do to avoid the fiscal cliff: raise taxes on the upper 1-2%. But the Repugs are adamant that Obama reform entitlements perhaps to the detriment of the 98-99%. Just who, exactly, is telling the GOP that the people are demanding spending cuts to popular entitlement programs??? Did I miss the 99% Rally for Cuts to Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security/Unemployment/Education or something???

  • beejeez on November 30, 2012 11:17 AM:

    While I'm glad we elected and re-elected the president, as far back as early 2008 I've thought that the most valid criticism of Obama by his rivals and pundits was of his lack of experience. They were right. He had not been a national figure very long when his momentum toward the presidency started to pick up speed. He had barely started to build political alliances into the kind of power base that can grease the skids for reforms and appointments. Whatever else you say about Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and W., they all were guys who had learned how to develop and leverage a power base long before the chief justice swore them in. In 2009, Obama had the electorate, but was starting almost from scratch in learning how to deploy the power it conferred. It was disappointing but maybe not surprising that he constantly seemed to be a lackluster fighter for his agenda. How much of that was due to prudent politics, how much due to his own humility and how much due to rookie mistakes is unclear right now, at least to me. But now a solid majority of the country has reissued Obama's White House parking pass and maybe we're about to see the audacity match the hope.

  • Anonymous on November 30, 2012 11:19 AM:

    Already, Rush Limbaugh is telling Republicans they should just cancel negotiations and let Obama take total responsibility for whatever happens.

    As one-time Democratic congressional candidate Paul Hackett said, "That's typical for that fatass drug addict to come up with something like that."

    And by the way, whatever happened to that guy?

  • kindness on November 30, 2012 11:36 AM:

    Rush is an idiot. Do I even have to say that? Why would actual politicians take any advice from a wingnut (drug addicted underage Dominican Republic prostitute user) like him is baffling. Sure in his own universe Rush has some power but here we are talking about an actual real reality that Rush chooses not to live in.

    Yo Rush, stay away from the kids, huh? Consenting adults only please.

  • R on November 30, 2012 12:20 PM:

    By all means read Klein's piece, but do not look at the comments. They might convince you that the right-wing plot to make Americans more stupid is working.

  • Jeff Johnson on November 30, 2012 3:07 PM:

    Shorter Obama: carry on Republicans.