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Cliff Notes-- On Being Able to Recognize "Game"

By       Message Anthony Barnes     Permalink
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"Raising rates is sort of a partisan political trophy for Obama," admitted Sen. Lindsay Graham during a December 10 interview on Fox News.

It is; but rightly so.   That's because it would be yet another truly remarkable milestone.   Forget Reagan's "thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican" canard.   For more than a generation "NO NEW TAXES!" has been the GOP's true "11th Commandment."   Not since the George H.W. era has a Republican president or member of Congress voted to raise taxes.  It's a pre-Grover Norquist orthodoxy that for many years has helped the GOP win election after election both locally and nationally and which they used to run on in 2012.  

But Obama was equally unequivocal in his pledge to raise taxes and won another four year term.   Thus, it was a fairly significant moment recently when House Speaker John Boehner conceded that "revenues" -- i.e., tax increases -- will be part of deficit reduction negotiations.   And since Boehner's concession, a number of other influential Republicans have indicated their willingness to cave.

"I actually think it has merit, where you go ahead and give the president his 2 percent increase " the rate increase on the top 2 percent," stated Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee on the December 9 broadcast of ABC News' "This Week".

On that same show, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn asked of himself : ""will I accept tax increases as part of a deal to actually solve our problem?"    Coburn's answer: "Yes."

A sense of inevitability also exists among those who reside in the deepest recesses of the conservative movement's counter-reality funhouse.  

"I don't think there's a Republican alive who could stop what's gonna happen," admitted Rush Limbaugh during one of his early December broadcasts.

Even Ann Coulter (aka, Satan's b*tch-kitty) is prepared to throw in the towel.    Asked by Sean Hannity -- who on his own volition remains entrenched in the fun bubble -- whether Republicans should "give in" to Obama on the tax rate, she replied , "Well, yeah, I guess I am."

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Indeed, the times, they are a-changin' and with it has emerged the politically chancy concept that will play a significant role in that change -- the fiscal cliff.     It extends back to the off-putting debt ceiling fandango of 2011, which now appears to be another case of the president's adversaries coming to a political chess match armed with a rigged checker board, a brand new box of checkers, and nary a hint of a strategy.

Naturally, not everyone saw it that way back then.   Shortly after Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 which resulted from the debt ceiling deal, The Atlantic's James Fallows wrote several articles critical of the president's strategy in reaching that agreement.  

"Was he thinking eight steps ahead of the oppositon, playing multi-dimensional chess while they were playing tic-tac-toe?" Fallows wrote.  "Or, was he a fatal step or two behind, playing patty-cake while they were playing Mixed Martial Arts? Chess master? or pawn?"

Mixed martial arts or chess?   Take your pick.   Obama was either Jon "Bones" Jones or Bobby Fischer, but whichever role he chose, it's pretty clear now that it's the Republicans who kinda got Tonka toyed with.   That seemingly out-of-whack "all cuts no taxes" debt crisis agreement accepted by Obama in 2011 now turns out -- as some had then surmised -- to have been a calculated bit of short term capitulation.    Just part of a shrewd, albeit dangerously hubristic political strategy: risky because for all practical purposes, it could only bear fruit if Obama was reelected.    

Like the president, the Republicans also made a huge gamble since the upper hand on the fiscal cliff is held by the Party that holds the White House.  It's reasonable to theorize that latent euphoria from their smashing successes in the 2010 mid-terms and convinced that their Party-wide crusade to "deny the president a second term" would bear fruit, provided the GOP enough assurance to expect that by the time the fiscal cliff became an issue the GOP would control the White House.

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In hindsight it's obvious that they were falsely assured.    And as we now have seen regarding the fiscal cliff showdown, the GOP is forced to again engage in what has become its modus operandi for moving legislation under Obama: stage a bewildering act of political Kabuki Theatre for a while, then gussy themselves up for the eventual Kumbaya Festival after Obama gets his way.

Apparently they have little choice. A recent Bloomberg poll shows that two-thirds of Americans and 45 percent of Republicans favor raising taxes on the rich.   Other polls show that the public will blame Republicans if no agreement is reached before the fiscal cliff deadline.   But what's easier to conclude however, is that Obama's mastery of the art (or science) of politics has forced the GOP into a period of reflection and deep soul-searching.  

Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio have taken to sputtering half-baked mea culpas -- on behalf of themselves and their Party -- about compassion.   Meanwhile, neo-con Bill Kristol has inferred that conservatism has devolved from a movement to a "racket," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced that the GOP would perform an "autopsy" in hopes of figuring out how it can win upcoming elections and Newt Gingrich has flat out stated that the GOP is " incapable " of competing against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Meanwhile, Boehner has purged Tea Partiers from their congressional committees and another Tea Party heavyweight, Jim DeMint, once called "the biggest douche bag in the douche bag capital of the world," hightailed it to a similar hangout popular among folks like him: the Heritage Foundation.

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Anthony Barnes, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a free-lance writer who leans toward the progressive end of the political spectrum. "When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to (more...)

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