Jonathan Chait FRAMES THE ISSUE:
Whether or not you agree with it, and whether or not it will work, President Obama’s strategy on sequestration is perfectly obvious. His goal is to end the automatic budget cuts, which he regards as stupidly constructed and likely to harm the economy, and replace them with a long-term deficit reduction deal, balanced between cuts to retirement programs and closing off tax deductions. His plan to win involves isolating the unpopularity of both sequestration and the Republican Party’s goals (especially its refusal to raise taxes on the rich) in order to force the opposition to compromise.
The whole drama, then, lies with the Republicans. And deciphering the GOP strategy is as mysterious as gaming out the plans of a tiny band of warring clans in some mountainous region of Afghanistan. Nearly everything about them is almost completely inscrutable to outsiders. What is the party actually hoping to accomplish in the end? How do Republican leaders think they will arrive there?
Deepening the bafflement is that the Republicans’ apparent approach bears no relation either to political reality or to the party’s stated goals. President Obama is offering up something — hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security and Medicare — that Republicans say they want and which (because of their unpopularity) they have proven unable to obtain even when they have had full control of government. They are instead undertaking a public showdown against a figure who is vastly more popular and trusted, who possesses a better platform to communicate his message, and whose message itself — spread the pain among rich and middle class alike, don’t cut retirement programs more deeply than needed in order to protect tax loopholes for the rich — commands overwhelmingly higher public support.
UPDATE: Here’s an example of how weird these Republicans are:
When Sen. Lindsey Graham was asked the other day about a plan floated by Senate Republicans to grant President Obama greater authority to target the $85 billion in cuts slated for this year, he said:
We’ll criticize everything he does. We’ll say, “Mr. President, it is now up to you to find this $85 billion in savings.” And we’ll say, “It’s to make it easier for you.” But every decision he’ll make, we’ll criticize.
Are these people crazy or what?