The Democrats set a trap and the Republicans walked right into it. By rejecting an ostensibly bipartisan “compromise,” the Republican House was portrayed as obstructionist and, even worse, heartless — willing to raise taxes on the middle class while resolutely opposing any tax increases on the rich.
House Republicans compounded this debacle by begging the Senate to come back and renegotiate the issue, thus entirely conceding the initiative to majority leader Harry Reid. But Reid had little incentive to make any concessions. House Republicans would have taken the fall for 160 million shrunken paychecks. Every day the White House would have demanded, in the name of the suffering middle class, that Republicans return from vacation and pass the temporary extension.
Having finally realized they had trapped themselves, House Republicans quickly caved, thanks to a fig leaf contrived by Sen. Mitch McConnell.
The GOP’s performance nicely reprises that scene in Animal House where the marching band turns into a blind alley and row after row of plumed morons plows into a brick wall, crumbling to the ground in an unceremonious heap.
With one difference: House Republicans are unplumed.
— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2011 the Washington Post Writers Group.