The Fiscal Cliff and the Republicans’ Nuclear Option

In his appearance on “Meet the Press” yesterday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham merely stated the obvious – and articulated the frustration of the entire Republican caucus– when he said, about President Obama and the Democrats, “I don’t think they’re serious about finding a deal” to avoid driving over the “fiscal cliff.”

Equally obvious is the reason Obama and the Democrats are not serious about finding a deal.  As Graham said, in the same interview, “It’s pretty clear… they’ve made a political calculation.”

But perhaps there is a way for Republicans to turn President Obama’s refusal to engage to their advantage. They could start by publicly and explicitly stating that the president’s actions show him to be disinterested in a serious deal — one that addresses the tax code, spending, and entitlements in a fashion that will actually put the country back on something approaching the right track.

Then they can emphasize that — precisely because they are so interested in addressing the country’s fiscal problems they are calling for a special negotiator to handle discussions over the fiscal cliff. This individual will obviously need to be someone with a track record of forging bipartisan compromise: which is why they’ll call in Bill Clinton.

Knowing Bill Clinton’s ego, I can’t possibly imagining him turning that invitation down.  Can you?  What I can imagine is Bill Clinton stepping out of a limousine, being tracked by an armada of cameras, and stepping up to a podium with dozens of microphones as sycophantic MSM hacks breathlessly report his every move, dominating all forms of media.  What I cannot imagine is anyone, from that point on, paying much attention to Barack Obama.

And if Clinton and the Republican actually manage to reach an agreement? Imagine Bill Clinton, flanked by McConnell and Boehner, smiles all around, making the announcement on the Capitol steps. Even better, imagine Barack Obama’s reaction. That sucking sound you hear would be the oxygen being sucked out of what little will be left of the Obama presidency after Bill Clinton gets through with it. You don’t seriously expect congressional Democrats not to support a bill with the Big Dog’s imprimatur on it, do you?

And why should there not be an agreement?  During the six years that he had to deal with a Republican House and Senate, President Clinton and congressional Republicans enacted several important bills. And anything that comes out of Clinton-GOP discussions is likely to be better for our side, better for the economy, and more palatable to the public at large than the alternative.

But even if no agreement results, the mere fact that Republicans were willing to talk with Clinton while not with Obama will speak volumes. It will also do considerable damage to Obama’s effectiveness and prestige.  So what say you, Bill?  Interested in a little payback for the way Obama treated your wife in the ’08 primaries?

  1. George Savage

    Gene, this is inspired.  Worst case we still wind up with a lousy deal, but at least President Obama will feel as ticked off about it as I do.

  2. Richard Stewart

    My goodness: this does sound like a good idea. After all, the president has engaged former president Clinton’s services before. And Big Dog Clinton would leave his scent on the proceedings, which would at least help throw the current president’s incompetence/collectivist-utopianism into sharp relief.

  3. DocJay

    Mr Obama is negotiating like a spoiled narcissist used to getting everything he wants handed to him.  That is of course because he is a spoiled narcissist.   Great choice nation.

  4. Black Prince

    You’ve described a beautiful fantasy….and sadly, it’s just that…a fantasy.  This will never happen.

  5. Schrodinger

    La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid

    The Godfather, 1969: Don Corleone nodded. “Revenge is a dish that tastes best when it is cold,” he said. Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn, 1982: Kirk, old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb, “Revenge is a dish best served cold”?
  6. Diaryof1

    If I were Clinton I’d think very carefully before accepting this hypothetical assignment. Barack Obama is a very dangerous man. He appears to be the worst kind of narcissist who only thrives in chaotic times like these and who erupts in rage and aggression when threatened (or perceives a threat).

  7. Trace

    You mean the Bill Clinton who vetoed the budget, shut down the government and then blamed the Republicans? That Bill Clinton?

  8. Steve Manacek
    C
    Black Prince: You’ve described a beautiful fantasy….and sadly, it’s just that…a fantasy.  This will never happen. · 53 minutes ago

    Indeed.  Bill is still a loyal Democrat at heart.  He would simply issue a dignified statement saying that it is not his role to interfere in the job America’s leaders were elected to do, along with a few pointed barbs about GOP grandstanding and inability to work with the President, and we’d be back at ground zero.

    And even if Clinton were tempted, Obama would send an unmanned drone to Chappaqua before he’d allow something like this to happen.

  9. Nathaniel Wright

    For those wondering where the cuts under sequestration will occur, the Congressional Research Service put this together.  I was originally not very concerned with the fiscal cliff as the expenses cut were to be shared between “security” and “non-security” and security had been broadly defined.  It appears that the SuperCommittee changed the definition of security to be more narrow.

    I’m not sure how I feel about sequestration now, but I will say that I think I am still in favor of going off the fiscal cliff.  I think that sequestration may be the perfect way to make Congress look at which military programs are vital.  Besides, I think we can focus particular attention on what is “exempt” from being cut (Student Loans, Federal Pay, Unemployment Compensation) and argue that sequestration doesn’t cut major programs.  We can then fight for real tax reform. 

    Americans won’t want real tax reform until they feel the real hit of taxes.

  10. Gene Schwimmer, Guest Contributor
    C
    Black Prince: You’ve described a beautiful fantasy….and sadly, it’s just that…a fantasy.  This will never happen. · 3 hours ago

    Probably not because (a) it could actually work and (b) most House Republicans are as dense as a shale oil rock.  But hey, I can dream, can’t I?

  11. Gene Schwimmer, Guest Contributor
    C
    Trace: You mean the Bill Clinton who vetoed the budget, shut down the government and then blamed the Republicans? That Bill Clinton? · 3 hours ago

    Yeah, that Bill Clinton.  One of my biggest disappointments was, at that time, seeing Clinton’s approval rating tank, Republicans on the verge of an enormous victory – and then, 24 hours before Clinton was about to cave, then-Majority Leader Bob Dole caved, first, pulling the rug out from under Newt Gingrich.  Since then, I’ve tolerated moderate Republicans when necessary, such as when we need to win Senate or House seats in a heavily Democratic state, but I no longer respect them.

  12. BrentB67

    If republican’s ‘nuclear option’ is to stroke the ego of a democrat President that went through impeachment they deserve the losses they were handed in November.

    How about a real nuclear option that has teeth and will ultimately restore some fiscal responsibility – do not raise the debt ceiling.

    We will not default there is more than enough to pay interest on the debt and the armed services. After that it will be time for everyone to make hard choices. Want to keep a program – raise taxes, just make sure everyone pays. 

  13. Gene Schwimmer, Guest Contributor
    C
    Nathaniel Wright: For those wondering where the cuts under sequestration will occur, the Congressional Research Service put this together.  I was originally not very concerned with the fiscal cliff as the expenses cut were to be shared between “security” and “non-security” and security had been broadly defined.  It appears that the SuperCommittee changed the definition of security to be more narrow.

    I’m not sure how I feel about sequestration now, but I will say that I think I am still in favor of going off the fiscal cliff. 

    Well, the question probably is moot, since it looks like we’ll be going over the cliff whether we want to or not, since Obama seems determined to stick to a deal that the Republicans can’t possibly accept.

    On the other hand, ironically, the very absurdity of Obama’s deal probably will help Republicans to stick together.  One would think, or at least hope, that even a Tom Cole, willing to raise the top tax rate, would be insulted by the miniscule spending cuts, and new spending demands, that Obama wants in exchange.

  14. No Caesar

    This is a very interesting idea that warrants serious consideration.  The Bowles Simpson (e.g. Ryan Budget) counter seems to be a good idea too.  I’d also suggest we propose a balanced approach.  Obama can have Clinton tax rates if he’ll accept Clinton spending levels.  Of course those were GOP spending levels, but who’s quibbling?

  15. WI Con

    Can those in the GOP and our talking heads please, refer to the ‘fiscal cliff’ as ”restoring/resuming Clinton Tax rates”?

    That phrase, ‘Clinton Tax rates’ should be standard in any discussion. 

  16. John Hanson

    The problem with all of this is it depends upon the basic assumption that Barack Obama wants a deal, that he, or other Democrats will negotiate.

    They do not want a deal, they will not negotiate anything.  It is take what the president dreams or nothing, and they will never agree to anything else.  Congress might agree to kick the can down the road another 6 months, so they can ask for more next time.    To negotiate one needs two sides talking in good faith.  The Democrats are not and will not negotiate in good faith.

  17. Black Prince
    Gene Schwimmer, Guest Contributor

    Black Prince: You’ve described a beautiful fantasy….and sadly, it’s just that…a fantasy.  This will never happen. · 3 hours ago

    Probably not because (a) it could actually work and (b) most House Republicans are as dense as a shale oil rock.  But hey, I can dream, can’t I? · 1 hour ago

    Hey, I’ll dream it with you…just promise not to pinch me too hard when it’s time to wake up! =)

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