I am still not certain who has come out ahead in the debt ceiling deal. Michael Barone seems to think that the Republicans go the better of the deal. In his latest column, courtesy of Human Events, he explains that the Republicans win when the debate is over spending cuts.
First of all, the liberals seem to be a whole lot angrier over the deal.
Democrats seem especially unhappy. They could have avoided the fight in the first place by raising the debt ceiling in the lame duck session in December, when they had large majorities in both houses of Congress.
But they decided not to. Reid’s comments then suggested that he expected the issue to split the House Republicans, pitting the leadership against the 87 Tea Party-sympathizing freshmen. The leaders would have to agree to a tax increase in order to get a deal, with a party schism like the one that followed George H.W. Bush’s agreement to a tax increase in 1990.
That didn’t happen. Instead Reid abandoned his demand for a tax increase. The reason, I think, is that he hasn’t had a 50-vote majority for a tax increase in the Senate, just as Senate Democrats haven’t been able to pass a budget.
All of which left Barack Obama looking somewhat ridiculous when he called for more taxes in his televised speech Monday night. When you’re trying to show you’re leading and your followers have already gone off in another direction, you tend to look like something other than a leader.
Some Democrats, in frustration, have said House Republicans are acting “almost like a dictatorship” or are using “terrorist tactics.” But in opposing tax increases, House Republicans are just being true to the voters who gave them in November 2010 a larger majority than they have won since 1946.
Other Democrats have taken to blaming Obama. Robert Reich, labor secretary in the Clinton administration, decries an empty bully pulpit. Paul Krugman, the trade economist who writes partisan vitriol for The New York Times, talks about a centrist copout.
That’s what they get for being too clever. Here is the point of the column.
All of which weakens Boehner’s bargaining position and may mean a final bill less tilted to Republican demands. But, as many Democrats note, the battle is being fought over how much spending to cut, which means that Republicans are winning. The question is just how much.
Democrats went into this fight with a precedent in mind, the budget fight between President Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995-96. The conventional wisdom is that Clinton won that fight and Republicans lost.
That’s not quite right: After shifting to noticeably more moderate policies, Clinton was re-elected in 1996, but Republicans lost few House seats and held onto their congressional majorities at the same time.
The difference this time is that Obama has not shifted policies noticeably, but instead has seemed to position himself as a complainer on the sidelines, asking voters to call their congressman. He has presented no specific plan of his own. His chief of staff reports that he hasn’t spoken at all to Boehner lately.
One major difference which Barone neglects to mention is the simply fact that with the loss of their monopoly over the news media, the Liberals are no longer able to completely control the narrative. Back in Clinton’s day, before Fox, the Internet, and when Conservative talk radio was just beginning to get big, Clinton enjoyed the advantage of being able to fight almost entirely on his own terms. If the media slammed the Republicans for being extreme and stubborn, there was really only Rush Limbaugh to tell the other side. Now, of course, Obama does not have that advantage and the fight is more equal.
I think that on the whole the republicans did get the better of the deal. It’s no where near enough to avert eventual catastrophe but at least it’s a step in the right direction.