The nearly incomprehensible decision by the Democratic leadership to avoid a vote on the extension of the Bush tax cuts is the latest problem for Democratic incumbents. On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams tried out a novel defense: Nancy Pelosi couldn’t take a vote, because the mean Republicans would twist the minds of voters and get them all confused. The discussion went as follows:
HUME: So this poor little Speaker of the House presiding over this massive majority has the vote she says to win on this issue and send her members home, having voted to stave off the tax cuts for nearly everybody, and she was afraid of what the minority Republicans were going to say about it? And you seriously — do you believe that?
WILLIAMS: Did you just say stave off tax cuts for everyone?
HUME: Tax increases. I’m sorry.
WILLIAMS: That’s a distortion.
HUME: Tax increases.
KRISTOL: The fact is — I was with four Republican Senate candidates this week by chance in New York at a little event. And they said — I asked, “How is the tax debate going?”
And they said, look, until now, it’s been the traditional Democratic/Republican debate. Democrats say they want to cut taxes for the middle class. Republicans say, you don’t want to raise any taxes in a recession. And it was probably kind of a wash politically.
All of that — now, maybe they’re wrong, but all of them were extremely happy. This was the night — the day after Nancy Pelosi adjourned the House without allowing a vote — without allowing a vote on the coming tax increase. Every Republican challenger can now say you have been in charge for two years, you could have dealt with this, you could have cut whatever deals you needed to cut to do as Juan said and bring over some of those moderate Republicans. You could have insisted on an up-or- down vote. You didn’t.
Every American now faces a tax increase in January thanks to this Democratic Congress doing nothing.
LIASSON: … Well, the problem is that they might very well get some kind of a deal, a temporary extension or whatever, in the lame duck.
The problem is that every Democrat now has to go home now without saying, “I voted to continue lower taxes for the middle class.” I do think that the White House and the Democrats overestimated how strong their argument was going to be and how easy it was going to be to keep all the Democrats on one page on this. I mean, I think if they had all their Democrats, they would have brought it up for a vote.
Now, their argument is Republicans are holding the middle class tax cut hostage to continuing the tax cuts for the rich. The problem with that is, if you don’t have a vote and kind of show them holding it hostage, how do you know that they really are?
Yeah, that’s a problem. So the Obama-Pelosi-Reid brain trust has saddled incumbent Democrats with more baggage. OK, but after the deluge that’s about to hit, won’t the Obami have a post-election epiphany, as Bill Clinton did? Don’t be too certain.
Mara Liasson says the White House doesn’t believe in all that moving to the center hooey, but reality is reality: “Look, I think that I can tell you on very good authority that at the White House, they totally reject the idea that he would adopt the Clinton model and move to the center. Now, that being said, everything is going to change in November.” Bill Kristol thinks some personnel changes may help: “I think the president has cleverly and sort of carefully gotten rid of the incredibly arrogant, smart alecks who dominated the White House in the first term — Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Pete Orszag. They knew best. They were so clever. Never let a crisis go to waste. We can jam stuff through. No problem. This president can carry anything off. That is not Pete Rouse’s attitude. Pete Rouse worked for Tom Daschle for 19 years. He cut a lot of deals with Congress.”
But it really is up to Obama — he’s not one for cutting deals, and he certainly isn’t one to admit error. His liberal extremism has imperiled his presidency and sunk his party. His irritation with all but his most fervent supporters has left him alienated from voters and even from his party’s base. The question remains: is he willing and able to shift course? After running on a change theme and trying to radically change America, he is the one who will have to change. Unless, of course, one term is plenty for him.