Some of of the story below seems oddly familiar. Instead of Bill Clinton negotiating with himself, we have Barack Obama, and intstead of Newt threatening to shut the government down, we have Boehner. However, we already know how that one turned out, which puts Boehner in a bit of a bind. Matt Yglesias points out that Boehner is stuck in a trap of his own making, while Kevin Drum wonders, when does he cave in: now or later?
Both sides will have to grapple with the contradictions within their ranks. The GOP will have to split the difference between the slash-and-burn firebrands in the House and the more cautious approach in the Senate, while Bill Clinton will have to come to terms with himself.
I'm glad the President finally found a point at which he'll draw the line. The odious GOP budget plans ought to have been countered more aggressively from the start. I'm especially gratified that the President is so resolutely against the elimination of the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor. Taking away this break for the working class while handing out tax cuts to the wealthy is typical GOP, and the President would have little claim to his party's base if he went along.
However, like Newt and most of official Washington, I'm betting that the President will cave in eventually. I'd be delighted if I were wrong about this, but much of Clinton's stance is closer to the moderate Republicans than to the progressive wing of his own party. He's already given up on opposing the $7 billion the Congress added to the Pentagon's budget request, ostensibly because he needs their votes for his Bosnia plan.
If Bill Clinton really wants to fight for a just budget, he'd point out the utter ludicrousness of a seven-year plan to begin with. Most of the serious cuts in the GOP plan come in the years 2001 and 2002, three elections from now, when Clinton and much of the current Congress will be safely retired. If you want to bet on the likelihood of the 112th Congress taking the heat for Newt and Bill, be my guest, but pardon me if I remain skeptical.
If Bill Clinton really sought justice, rather than simply standing against the insane tide of lemmings scurrying to the cliffs, he'd follow the advice of his lonely Labor Secretary, and propose massive cuts in welfare for the rich. If he had an instinct for the jugular, he'd point out, at every opportunity, the monumental hypocrisy of the Republican plans. Now. While he's got some polling numbers to stand on.
In the meantime, I guess we can all be thankful that he hasn't joined the lemmings. Yet.