What’s on view here is what might be called the fault-line in the conservative movement.
Let’s take what is in reality but the latest manifestation of this problem item by item.
• Both the WSJ and the Standard are asking for conservative support for the Boehner plan. The WSJ says not to support Boehner means Republicans are playing into Obama’s hands. Bill Kristol and the gang say not to support Boehner means conservatives are siding with Obama. (!!!!!)
To begin (and to be fair, press deadlines may have interfered), the Boehner plan has now been scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — and found to fall short of its much touted claims. In fact, the CBO score was so devastating the Speaker’s staff has embarrassingly been sent back to rewrite the plan. Take a look at this story over in the Washington Examiner by our friend and former colleague Phil Klein. Had conservatives followed the advice of the WSJ and the Standard and leapt to defend the Boehner plan, they would now be on record as supporting some half-baked plan that — according to CBO — would have reduced the deficit in 2012 by… sitting down?… $1 billion dollars!!!!
Not to be direct…but are you kidding? To put the Boehner plan in perspective, let’s go back to this news, reported here in the Washington Post, from October 7, 2010. The story concerned some interesting findings just released by the Social Security Administration on where some Obama stimulus funds had gone. Said the Post:
In general, the federal government misspent almost $110 billion in fiscal year 2009 by sending benefits checks to dead people, responding to fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims and overpaying government contractors.
So. In other words, the much ballyhooed Boehner plan (“the most credible proposal with a chance of becoming law before the 2012 election,” say our friends) now officially scored by CBO as shaving a whole $1 billion off the deficit for all of next year — is in fact a mere one hundred tenth of the amount Obama was paying — according to his own government — to dead people in 2009.
This is what conservatives are being asked to support? This kind of thinking — which has already been sent (red-faced, one assumes) back to the drawing boards — was what conservatives were supposed to declare their line in the sand?
• Let’s talk about the sheer politics here for a second. The WSJ editorial had this line in it when discussing conservative opposition to the Boehner plan:
This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees.
Yes, it is. It is precisely the political thinking that made United States Senators out of Florida’s Marco Rubio, Utah’s Mike Lee, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson. When the Ruling Class was cheering in primaries for the likes of Charlie Crist, Robert Bennett, Arlen Specter and Trey Grayson. If there is a political rule that says conservatives must win every single election then turn-about is fair play. How does one explain the crack Establishment political thinking that turned moderates Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman into GOP Senate and gubernatorial nominees? And why is there an Obama Administration in the first place? Wasn’t nominating the moderate John McCain supposed to save the day because, you know, all GOP moderates win elections? Ahhh the walk down memory lane when one visits the presidential libraries of great Republican moderate presidents from Dewey to Dole.
What’s going on here is a friendly disagreement among conservatives, but one with serious consequences.
Speaker Boehner was calling in to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to make his case. Presumably as he did to the WSJ and the Weekly Standard. The first two listened respectfully and asked questions. The second two leapt onto the Boehner Plan bandwagon — and this morning have CBO egg on their faces. Another talk show host, our friend Mark Levin, we understand simply won’t support this thing period — and hence no Boehner call on his air. This morning he is in fine fettle over this, venting his own views as seen here and here.
We’re a little less direct than our friend Mark, but however this disagreement is phrased, here’s the take from here: As respectfully as can be said: talk radio and the editorial page of the WSJ and the Weekly Standard are very important to the larger conservative cause. Filled to the brim with people we know and certainly have respect for all around, considerably so. Even when we differ. But someone needs to say this:
Handing hosts and editors information and asking the people involved to rally to the flag — only in less than 24 hour to have that same information look just plain silly, courtesy of the CBO scoring — is both bad practice and potentially politically damaging to the Speaker. And for prominent conservatives who were, with the best of intentions, gulled into what now appears to be a bill of goods. There is a reason for the through-the-roof popularity of Rush, Hannity and Levin. Their audience correctly perceives that they will not allow themselves to be sold a bill of goods, even by the Speaker of the House.
And adding insult to injury? This story this morning in the Washington Times, which says this of the CBO report:
The Senate Democratic debt-limit bill would cut future spending by $2.2 trillion over 10 years — much deeper than the House GOP alternative, according to figures Congress’ chief scorekeeper released early Wednesday.
So what do we have here?
The Speaker of House has presented a plan that CBO says will eliminate a mere $1 billion from the deficit next year. A fraction of the amount the administration doled out in 2009 stimulus money to dead people. Say again, dead people.
In support of this all manner of people on the conservative side were asked to sign on the dotted line.
Politely put from here: no.