In the Washington Post today, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer writes that Republicans should “call Obama’s sequester bluff.” It’s being passed around by Republicans and other conservatives on Twitter and in email blasts.
Krauthammer’s argument — which exemplifies a typical conservative shift on the sequester recently — is that Republicans now have leverage on the sequester over President Barack Obama.
The leverage, Krauthammer writes, comes because the sequester was designed by the White House to force Republicans’ hand on raising tax rates, since they would find the alternative — cutting defence spending — to be more abhorrent.
The country needs tax reform. But first it needs to rein in out-of-control spending. To succeed in doing that, Republicans must remain united under one demand: cuts with no taxes — or we will let the sequester go into effect.
The morning after, they should sit down with Obama for negotiations on real tax reform as recommended by the president’s own Simpson-Bowles commission: broaden the base, lower the rates.
Krauthammer wasn’t always so bullish on using the sequester as a tool for leverage. Last May, he warned in an appearance on Fox News that letting the cuts go into effect would be a “catastrophe” for the nation’s defence.
“Republicans are opposing it and trying to get out of it. What are Democrats doing? Leaving it in place, using it as a stick and blackmail weapon against the Republicans in return for trying to get increase in social spending or an increase in taxes,” Krauthammer said.
The conservative editorial board of The Wall Street Journal advanced a similar argument on Thursday. In an editorial entitled “The Unscary Sequester,” the editorial board disputed Washington’s “collective fit of terror.”
From the WSJ:
It’s nice to see Mr. Obama worry about “business decisions” for a change, but listening to his cries of “massive” cuts is like watching “Scary Movie” for the 10th time. You know it’s a joke. […]
Fear not. As always in Washington when there is talk of cutting spending, most of the hysteria is baseless.
Then there’s the editorial the board wrote not even seven months ago. It used the same language as Krauthammer — “catastrophe,” which it wrote was “playing out in slow motion.” The board also said that Obama had the leverage, and that it would be a “dangerous game” to play with the sequester.
From that editorial (emphasis added):
Like an audience at a horror movie, nearly everyone paying attention is yelling “watch out!” into a political and media void. […]
Mr. Obama knows all this from his own Pentagon’s warnings, so why is he inviting a crack-up? The answer is that he wants to use GOP concerns about defence to bludgeon Republicans into accepting a huge tax increase. Republicans were unwise to accept the sequestration deal while leaving entitlements off the table, thus handing Mr. Obama more leverage.
But perhaps they never expected that a Commander in Chief who swore an oath to safeguard America’s national security would play such a dangerous game. It’s not the first time this President’s political cynicism has been underestimated.
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