Trigger happy

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) leaves a House Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 29, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

I’m watching the coverage of the debt deal, and it’s difficult listening to people like Chris Matthews who manage to sound clueless as they let their emotions overcome their ability to think.

Of course this is a short term win for the Tea Party and the Republicans. They had leverage, as enough of them were crazy enough and dumb enough to let the stalemate continue through August 2nd, risking economic catastrophe.

Also, President Obama took the calculated risk of going for a grand bargain. Those efforts failed, and that made it more difficult in the end game. That said, he earned long-term political points, as the public was educated about the need for a balanced approach and polls show they support that in overwhelming numbers.

Now we move to the new gang of 12 and the next phase of the debt deal. Ezra Klein makes a great point, arguing that Democrats will likely prefer the trigger as opposed to a deal if the GOP won’t budge on revenues.

Start from the premise that Republicans will refuse any deal that includes significant new revenue and Democrats will realize that that’s just fine from their perspective, as Republicans can either cut a deal with them in December 2012 or all of the Bush tax cuts can expire. Now take a good, hard look at the trigger.

The Joint Committee is charged with finding $1.5 trillion in savings over 10 years. The trigger would only cut $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The Joint Committee is likely to cut Social Security, Medicaid and a host of programs Democrats aren’t going to want to touch if taxes aren’t part of the deal. The trigger exempts Social Security and Medicaid, and $1 out of every $2 in cuts comes from the Pentagon. The Joint Committee is likely to cut a deal without revenue, and Democrats will have to explain to their base why they permitted, say, Medicare cuts while letting the GOP reject tax increases. The trigger lets Democrats blame Republicans for protecting the wealthy in the 2012 election.

The trigger would also result in massive defense cuts.

So, if the Democrats prefer a trigger if a deal can’t include revenues, and many Republicans will want to avoid defense cuts, this gives the Democrats leverage!

These details are important, and commentators like Matthews should wait to understand these dynamics before whining about the deal.

The GOP’s Eric Cantor problem

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) speaks at the Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing in Washington, June 3, 2011. REUTERS/Molly Riley (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS)

The GOP discipline has completely broken down over the past week in the debt ceiling negotiations. All year they’ve been playing a game of Russian Roulette with the economy, trying to use a potential default to force massive spending cuts. In many ways the strategy worked well, as President Obama and the Democrats put just about everything on the table.

But, as usual, the ideologues are overplaying their hand, so much so that Mitch McConnell buckled under the pressure of the business community and basically said he’d let the president raise the debt ceiling without any cuts.

The guy at the center of all this is Eric Cantor, whose either too stupid or too ambitious to take yes for an answer. He can get massive cuts if he just includes some revenues in a deal, but instead he’s pushing the talks to the brink of disaster. Last night he also tried to imply that the President lost his cool in the last meeting, though all other accounts tell a different story.

Meanwhile, the polls are starting to shift in Obama’s favor with regard to the debt and the economy – at least when compared to congressional Republicans. That’s what happens when smarmy guys like Cantor become the face of the GOP.

Dana Milbank nailed it yesterday, even before Cantor’s latest performance last night in the negotiations where he again refused to budge.

He draws out the vowels in a style that is part southern, part smarty-pants. Had young Cantor spoken like this at his prep school in Richmond, the bigger boys may well have wiped that sneer off his face. Yet even then, Cantor was accustomed to having things his way. According to Cantor’s hometown Richmond Times-Dispatch, the quotation he chose to accompany his yearbook photo was “I want what I want when I want it.”

What Cantor wants now is power — and he is prepared to risk the full faith and credit of the United States to get it. In a primacy struggle with House Speaker John Boehner, he has done a deft job of aligning himself with Tea Party House members in opposition to any meaningful deal to resolve the debt. If the U.S. government defaults, it will have much to do with Cantor.

His antics from last night are being branded as childish, and the Democrats smell blood and are now taking direct aim at Cantor. Harry Reid is more than happy to negotiate now with Mitch McConnell who is desperate to avoid the potential catastrophe that he and other Republicans created.

They clearly thought Barack Obama would fold, but they were mistaken. Obama has called their bluff, and they look like panicked fools at the poker table.

Donald Trump won’t run for president

Businessman and possible Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce Expo luncheon in Nashua, New Hampshire May 11, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

Big news!! What a shocker!!

Naturally, many people thought this was baked into the cake from the beginning. Donald Trump is a publicity whore. We all knew that. What we didn’t know was how stupid he could sound when he opened his mouth about topics other than real estate, reality TV or beauty pageants.

He completely embarrassed himself, probably doing great damage to his brand along the way. He also did some damage to the Republican Party, showing how gullible many GOP voters can be when it comes to topics like the birther issue. We saw how a carnival barker could shoot up in the polls just by running his mouth, and the rest of the field came across as very weak in the process.

Fortunately, Trump was humiliated by President Obama before he made his inevitable announcement that he wasn’t running. Even prospective GOP voters finally saw through his bullshit as his poll numbers plummeted after Obama released his long-form birth certificate and then had Osama bin Laden killed.

Good riddance . . .

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?

Huh?

News outlets are reporting that Hillary Clinton is under consideration for Secretary of State. I guess Obama wasn’t kidding when he said he was considering the Lincoln model of a team of rivals.

There’s increasing chatter in political circles that the Obama camp is not overly happy with the usual suspects for secretary of state these days and that the field might be expanding somewhat beyond Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and maybe former Democratic senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.

There’s talk, indeed, that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) may now be under consideration for the post. Her office referred any questions to the Obama transition; Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment.

I’m a little puzzled by this one. I think she would be much better suited for a career in the Senate where she could work on issues like health care. She’s certainly up to the job, and she would have Bill Clinton as a resource, but it seems like there are many other options. On the other hand, it shows that he’s willing to bring in some of the best people in the party, and that he’s not afraid to have big personalities in his administration.

So much for the Bradley Effect

For the most part, the pollsters did a very good job in this election. Barack Obama appears to have won the popular vote by six points, which pretty much matches the polling averages. Rasmussen got the percentages exactly right, and Nate Silver’s projection was also accurate. Even the polls that were off a little were very close on Obama’s totals.

This should not be a surprise. With few exceptions (like New Hampshire), the polls were pretty accurate during the primaries. The pundits needed to fill air time, so many of them had to speculate about the Bradley Effect, but we now see that it no longer applies.

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