The PJ Tatler

Washington's 'Grand Bargain' Fetish is a Farce

Poking around the ‘sphere for various opinions (like this one, which is better than the post it’s attached to) on what the Republicans ought to do, this thought occurred to me. You see a lot of “grand bargains” or “comprehensive (insert issue of the day here) reform” whenever those in power don’t actually want to do anything useful or good. They may want to act, they may be determined to act, but they don’t really want to have to sell all the details of what they want to do.

We saw this with “comprehensive immigration reform” a few years back. That was actually cover to float amnesty by another name, along with promises to secure the border that no one really believed would be fulfilled. The counter arose: “Ok, but secure the border first.” And the reply from on high was to call us all “racists” and whatnot while the “comprehensive” bill itself died a deserved death.

We saw it again with ObamaCare. The president et al sold it as a “comprehensive” solution to rising health care costs, but when pressed for details on the plan or real explanations of how it would work, the bill’s authors scurried into backrooms to hash out the details where we pesky voters couldn’t see what was going on. Howard Dean even admitted that the one thing most agree would actually bring health care costs down — tort reform — was off the table because the Democrats feared their own trial lawyer base. ObamaCare one passed, of course, because the president and the Democrats were invested in it as a generational legislative priority, no matter what the details of it turned out to be. Insert link to Pelosi’s admission against interest on this, here.

We’re seeing it again on the president’s demand for a “grand bargain” to deal with the debt ceiling., rather than a smaller deal to patch the debt ceiling for a few months. He hasn’t offered a plan of his own. Before even reading the GOP plan, he greatly exaggerated public support for his own position and dismissed the GOP plan as “probably not serious.” Hey, champ, at least they did their homework. You’re the guy who partied all night — literally, much of the time — before showing up late with nothing in hand, planning to talk and charm your way into cribbing off of someone else’s work (but Nancy didn’t feel like helping out with a real plan either). I suspect he doesn’t want to sweat the details because he knows that any real plan will necessarily involve rolling back most if not all of what he has done since taking office. His “grand bargain” is smoke to cover what he really wants, which is to bake in his own spending as a done deal that cannot be undone. A “grand bargain” that gets his support fixes massive — not just big — government as the new, settled normal in American politics. So, the “grand bargain” itself isn’t a serious negotiating position. While everyone else is worried about the debt ceiling and default, he has his eyes on “fundamental transformation.”

The Republicans, whatever else they do, would end up losing in the long run if they strike a “grand bargain” with this president, in my opinion. He is trying to bake in his own irresponsible acts as the floor for future government. They shouldn’t help him do that. But it’s true that they are in a bind if you look at the current polls on who will be blamed for a default, and you factor in the air war to come if that happens. The mediaDemocrat establishment will work in concert to bleed the GOP dry to woo those independents, if not back to the Dem camp, at least away from the GOP camp.

Meanwhile, Sens. Reid and McConnell may be hammering out something that will work. We’ll see. I’m not sold on them either, neither is very trustworthy, but the deal they’re working on is not the “grand bargain” that Obama wants. It’s smaller, and might actually force the president to do his own work for a change. If Reid helps bake that into their deal, it may signal that even the Senate Democrats are fed up with Obama’s “What? Me worry about having to come up with a plan?” Alfred E. Newman act.

Call Obama’s bluff? For real? Sure. Just make sure your real cards will actually beat his mostly pretend cards.