The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Not Trying to Play ‘True Conservative’ Here, But the Budget Deal Is a Problem

Posted on | April 9, 2011 | 27 Comments

Where to begin? I suppose a good logical starting point is this video with Mark Levin calling in to Neal Cavuto’s show:

Those Republicans who are in high-five victory-lap end-zone-dance mode over the late-night budget deal — and yeah, I’m looking at you, Carl Cameron — will be tempted to dismiss Levin’s criticism as just so much “True Conservative” fulmination. But Levin is pointing out serious issues, both politically and policy-wise, for Republicans:

“I love this conga line of Bush staffers telling us this is great. The second-biggest creator of deficits in world history, the Bush administration. Far out-run by Obama, don’t get me wrong. So now they tell us, if we try to hold Boehner to his own pledge, that we’re seeking ‘perfection.’ A hundred billion, he said. Nixed. Sixty-one billion, he said. Nixed. Thirty-eight-point-five billion, now the president’s happy, Reid’s happy, the bureaucrats are happy, the Republican propaganda mill is in full force . . . Let me ask you something: Has anybody looked at this $38.5 billion even?”

And in case you missed it, Levin is pointing to a big problem: Bush-era “brand damage” for the GOP.

One reason that Karl Rove’s fantasy of a “permanent Republican majority” collapsed so drastically after 2004 is that Bush and the GOP leadership in Congress totally abandoned any pretense of fiscal conservatism. Yeah, Bush cut taxes, but he did nothing to restrain the ballooning federal budget. In fact, Bush contributed to budget bloat with the idiotic No Child Left Behind Act and the even more idiotic Medicare prescription-drug benefit.

If millions of conservative voters just stayed home in 2006 and 2008 — and they did — well, why the hell not stay home? If the GOP is challenging Democrats to be the Big Government party, where’s the incentive for advocates of constitutionally limited government to vote Republican?

“The GOP sucks, but Democrats are worse” isn’t much of a campaign slogan. And this is where the policy overlaps the politics: Our current massive deficits are unsustainable, and if Republicans can’t make substantial headway in reducing spending, there will be political pressure to try to balance the budget by raising taxes.

Supply-siders know that repealing what Democrats always call “tax cuts for the rich” won’t do much to reduce the deficit — indeed, by stifling private-sector growth, a tax increase might actually make the deficit worse — but the siren song of class-warfare rhetoric is more appealing when Republicans don’t look serious about fiscal discipline.

And cutting $38 billion from a 2011 deficit of $1.4 trillion is not serious: It’s less than 1/30th of the deficit.

Ask yourself: Why is Harry Reid talking about how “historic” this deal is? Why are liberals moaning about this measly 1/30th reduction of the deficit as if it were a draconian slash-and-burn?

Answer: By giving people the idea that this deal imposes drastic cuts, Democrats will make it easier to justify resisting more serious deficit-reduction measures later.

“We already gave them ‘historic’ budget cuts, but now those greedy extremist Republicans want more!”

Conservatives who are tempted to listen to Beltway GOP spin and start doing victory-lap celebrations had better wake up and realize that this is the wrong message to be promoting, with so many bigger fights ahead. Look at this HuffPo headline:

Why Progressives Keep On Losing
and the Right Keeps On Winning

That’s a column by R.J. Eskow of the Campaign for America’s Future, a left-wing Democrat outfit, and what he’s trying to do is to rile up “progressives,” to get them to put pressure on Democrats to fight harder against the GOP.

Now, if this is what the Left is tellling the Democrat Party base, while the biggest voices on the Right — including certain clowns at National Review — are telling conservatives that the GOP leadership is doing just hunky-dory, guess what? Zero grassroots pressure on the GOP leadership to fight harder against the Democrats, who will have a fired-up fanatical “progressive” base breathing down their necks.

Escalation must be met with counter-escalation, and while Carl Cameron is singing from the Beltway Republican hymnal, telling the Fox-viewing faithful that Boehner just won the World Championship of Budget-Cutting, Democrats are busy marshalling their “progressive” army for an all-out war. Meanwhile, as Mark Levin points out on his Facebook page, Boehner’s argument for why conservatives should be satisfied with this 1/30th reduction of the deficit is that the House GOP is too weak to win.

So this isn’t about who’s a True Conservative and who’s a gutless RINO pansy. That’s just a joke, Gabe — heh heh heh — but anyhow it’s irrelevant to the serious task of getting the right-wing grassroots base energized to put at least as much heat on GOP leadership as the “progressives” are putting on Democrats.

Jeff Goldstein’s self-deprecating reference to “extreme ideological purists who Don’t Understand The Realities of DC” — which is how soi-dissant “pragmatists” label conservative critics of the GOP leadership — disguises an ironic truth: It’s the “pragmatists” who are misinterpreting the political reality of the situation.

It’s OK for Jimmie Bise to be happy that Boehner & Co. jumped over a tiny hurdle — lowering expectations enough so they could be easily exceeded — but this happy-dance routine isn’t going to win any further concessions in the upcoming debt-ceiling fight, and it certainly won’t persuade any Democrat senators to vote for the Ryan fiscal 2012 budget.

If indeed this budget deal has thrown Democrats on the defensive, then now is no time to let up the pressure.

To borrow Pete Ingemi’s favorite Phil Sheridan quote: “Ride right through them, they’re demoralized as hell!”

UPDATE: Dan Riehl has been on fire today. Here he takes on Thomas Lifson of American Thinker, and here he takes Boehner head-on.


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