by Paul Goldman
“Read My Lips, No New Taxes” famously declared George Bush the elder when accepting the GOP presidential nomination at their 1988 Convention. A few years later, he agreed to a budget deal that broke this promise. This gave a guy long seeing himself as the missing face from Mt. Rushmore, the Newtman from Georgia, an opening to challenge a President of his own party on what he said was a solemn matter of high principle. He failed to derail the deal, but he got on the fast track to be the next Speaker of the House, helping to engineer the first GOP majority in that body in two generations.
“Read My Lips, Higher Taxes on the Wealthy Are Morally Right” declared, in so many words, candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. The party platform promises to oppose extension of those reviled parts of the failed Bush Economic Plan. Now, as with daddy Bush, a Democratic President has decided to take a budget deal that violates his solemn pledge.
So the question is now rightfully asked as would be case at the climatic moment in the long running TV show “What’s My Line?”: Will the real Democratic Newt Gingrich please stand up?
Whatever one might say about the Newtman’s megalomania – and hopefully it starts with calling up a real estate agent and asking her to get you some land in the Arctic wilderness so you can build a bomb shelter should he ever get his finger on the nuclear trigger – the Newtster isn’t just talk.
Right now, Democratic liberals in the House of Representatives have been doing a lot of talking, questioning the backbone of the President among other things, saying he talked the talked, but didn’t walk the walk on the Bush tax cuts. For the last 23 months, however, despite having the power to keep that promise, they failed to publicly demand that their leaders use the reconciliation process to stop that part of the Bush program most reviled to be extended.
Yet now, at the last hour, they suddenly decide that to prove their liberalism, they have to threaten to knee-cap the Obama Presidency…over what exactly? If this is now such a matter of high principle, why was such low interest in doing this “right thing” until now?
Like Sarah Palin, they have a laundry list of complaints about everything except the taste of the moose burgers sold in Mrs. Palin’s home town. They say with any backbone, the President could have, should have, done a lot better.
Venting is part of politics, I get it. Victimization is part of politics, I get that too. Playing to the cameras for consumption back home and on the liberal left is also par for the course, I wasn’t born yesterday.
But when you accuse the President of lacking backbone, and then you start doing what the House liberals are doing – in effect saying that if you just had our backbone Mr. President, you could have gotten the right deal, not the wrong deal – you quickly approach the Fail Safe point, the spot where SAC bombers get the go/no go code to launch the nuclear attack.
You can’t keep calling everyone else a chicken or a sell-out without at some point having to put up or shut up on your side of the political aisle.
Thus, to be taken seriously not just now but in the future, the Democratic Newt Gingrich is going to have to stand up and show that liberals put principle over party,win or lose, whether it damages a Democratic President or not. Are they really ready to go the Full Monte?
In terms of game theory, liberal democrats have chosen a hugely high risk to low reward chess game here, it is difficult to imagine that whatever they can realistically achieve at this point is worth putting their own credibility and the future of the Obama Presidency on the political chopping block.
But at some point, what started out as a game chicken becomes, as we know from the drag racing scene in Rebel Without A Cause, a drive off the cliff.