The Corner

Re: Re: A Nation of Cowards

Ramesh, nobody around here disagrees with you lightly, and when they do they often do so ridiculously, so perhaps there’s justice in your charge. But

1) I’m not in the business of modulating congressional Republicans’ self-esteem.

2) Supporting the Roadmap in toto is not a litmus test, but it’s more or less the only game in town within the caucus. I would have criticized Republicans for not endorsing their favored alternatives for reforming entitlements, but their non-existence made that tricky. This being said, I would settle for some specificity on what reforms are necessary. I don’t count “everything is on the table” regurgitated ad nausem on the Sunday shows as “specificity.”

3) I prefaced the litany of GOP responses to the Roadmap by saying that they ranged from “non-committal at best to cowardly at worst.” I ran them in roughly that order, and so West’s appeared first. Now, maybe I was being unfair to Representative West, whom I admire in many ways, in assuming his comments to Bob Costa were enough to justify calling him “non-committal” on entitlement reform. But a Google news search of “Allen West on entitlements” produced 13 results, and the only substantive one included this exchange from a campaign appearance:

Just 10 days later later, West was at South Florida Bible College pledging to hundreds of almost exclusively white constituents — in his first formal meeting since his election — that he would work through the $5 trillion added to the national debt since 2007. Questions during the appearance ranged from personal to policy issues.

“The Republicans won’t cut entitlements. The Democrats won’t cut expenditures. Can you find 1 percent to really cut in this budget?” asked Boca Raton resident Mark Baxter.

“Actually, there are more admirals in the Navy than ships,” answered West, who has also pledged to make military issues a priority in his administration. “I would look at how many headquarters we have … but I would make sure that we have the best weapons systems, the best platforms, the best training tools and look out for [military] families and healthcare.”

Again, maybe context robbed West’s comments here of their true force, or maybe he’s offered a full-throated endorsement of raising the retirement age, means-testing, moving toward a premium-support model of Medicare, etc., and I’ve just missed it. I’m far from a perfect reporter and I’d be happy to run such comments if they’re brought to my attention.

4) Like powering up the reentry vehicle in Apollo 13, sequencing matters when you’re dealing with extremely limited power. You recommend Republicans let President Obama make the first move on entitlements. He demonstrated today that he won’t. Your bet is then that the Republicans can win a fight on discretionary spending against the Democrats and the manifold of constituencies who’ll feel the impact of these cuts, and have enough amperage left to create a Republican victory in 2012 complete with a mandate to fix entitlements. My bet is that the chances of getting the full $100 billion in cuts into a joint CR, and the benefits that would accrue from doing so, are both sufficiently low that there is nothing recommending doing them instead of entitlement reform. Indeed, the real worry is that the Republicans will pass the $100 billion after a bloody battle and be even less inclined to take on entitlements. Having declared a hollow victory, they’ll turn out a dead-letter 2012 budget that rolls back spending to 2008 or even 2006 levels but says just as much — that is, as little — as the president did today on the real deficit drivers. You bet that the Republicans can turn this mutual inaction into a winner in 2012. I’m skeptical.

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