January 16, 2013

The Republican Party continues to stage a big, dramatic showdown ostensibly designed to save the republic from Obama’s reckless overspending. It turns out, though, that it’s a showdown that nobody — except for a small minority of Americans — really wants.

Today’s Washington Post poll finds that a whopping 67 percent of Americans say Congressional Republicans are doing “too little” to cooperate with President Obama, while only 27 percent say the GOP is doing the right amount or too much. Among independents, those numbers are 68-26. By contrast, 48 percent say Obama’s doing too little to cooperate with Republicans, while the same amount — 48 percent — say he’s doing the right amount or too much.

More to the point: 58 percent of Americans — and 58 percent of independents — say the debate about raising the debt ceiling should be separate from efforts to cut spending. Even 45 percent of Republicans say this. Only 36 percent of Americans want the debt ceiling to be tied to spending cuts.

In other words, this poll suggests the public overwhelmingly rejects the GOP leadership’s case that raising the debt ceiling must be tied to spending cuts of comparable size.  But it gets worse. The Post poll also asked whether people favor default or a partial government shutdown if no compromise is reached. Only 22 percent of Americans support that course of action. Only 36 percent of Republicans support it.

TPM has a good roundup of all the GOP-aligned groups and officials and commentators who are calling for the GOP to stand down. Yet the House GOP continues hurtling down its current course.

There’s been a lot of debate over the suggestion that more than half of House Republicans really are crazy enough to force default to get the White House to recognize the country’s spending problem. In the end the House can pass a compromise with a minority of Republicans and lots Democrats. And it may be, as Stan Collender argues, that GOP leaders are recognizing that the debt ceiling is the wrong place — substantively — to make a big stand against spending.

Yet the persistence of this craziness remains a serious problem. As Ed Kilgore and Josh Barro have observed, it’s rooted in a broader conviction: That Obama’s fiscal policies have placed the country on a path to total destruction, which justifies any means necessary to stop them. As they both note, not only is this conviction evidence free; it’s apparently unshakable, and making it impossible for the GOP to behave as a functional opposition party. As today’s poll shows, an increasingly fringe view is driving the GOP’s approach to the fiscal debate, which could have severe long term consequences for the country.

* Demolishing the Tea Party’s debt ceiling claim: Speaking of evidence free convictions, Glenn Kessler absolutely demolishes the Tea Party claim that default won’t be such a big deal, after all. This has become a staple of the right’s debt ceiling denialism.

* Headline of the day: Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:

Republicans Split on Debt-Ceiling Approach

As Steve Benen points out: “That wasn’t the case in 2011, when literally zero GOP lawmakers publicly denounced their party’s hostage strategy…the Republican strategy to be effective, the party has to march in lock step. The moment some GOP policymakers start to say publicly, ‘Maybe we should let the hostage go’ — with others making similar remarks in private — the entire gambit starts to fall apart.” That now appears to be happening.

* The big gun rollout begins: As Philip Rucker details, the package of gun reforms that Obama and Joe Biden will roll out today comprises “the most aggressive and expansive national gun-control agenda in generations.” It will contain what we expected:

In addition to background checks and restrictions on military-style guns and ammunition magazines, Obama is expected to propose mental health and school safety initiatives such as more federal funding for police officers in schools, according to lawmakers and interest group leaders whom White House officials briefed on the plans.

Also key today will be the details about what’s in those 19 executive actions on guns Obama is said to be mulling.

 *What the right will obsess over today: Mike Allen’s Playbook, on the Obama and Joe Biden gun event set for this morning:

They will be joined by children from around the country who wrote the President letters in the wake of the Newtown tragedy expressing their concerns about gun violence and school safety, along with their parents.

There will be a lot of anger on the right at the supposed exploitation of children on display here (in service of promoting policies designed to prevent future massacres of children).

* The NRA’s despicable Web video: The NRA has released a video slamming Obama as an “elitist hypocrite” for having Secret Service protection for his kids while panning the idea of more guns in schools. Remember: This kind of stuff has a very specific strategic goal: Obfuscation and distraction. The NRA wants the conversation to be about anything other than the easy availability of guns — including for criminals and the mentally ill — and it will do whatever is necessary to accomplish this.

* Inside the NRA: Mother Jones takes us inside the secretive workings of the “gun rights” group, demonstrating that its tightly controlled leadership selection process may leave ordinary grass roots members with little say in how the organization functions. As always, it’s worth reiterating that the NRA is more representative of the gun industry (to which it has deep financial ties) than anyone else, and it puts an enormous amount of resources into beating back sensible gun reforms that even most gun owners favor.

* Improved background checks could have results: The “gun rights” brigade will tell you there’s no evidence improving background checks will prevent gun violence. Garen Wintemute of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California sets the record straight:

Expanding background checks in the United States would help disrupt criminal gun markets, a crucial driver of urban gun violence, Dr. Wintemute said. While there has been a debate over how effective background checks have been, Dr. Wintemute pointed to studies of prisoners incarcerated for crimes involving firearms that have found that at least 80 percent of them obtained their guns through private transfers. “If we eliminate those, I think it’s completely reasonable to expect a substantial drop in crimes related to firearms,” he said.

Also: There’s no telling how many of the untold number of gun purchases that have been blocked by the functional parts of the background check system stopped gun crimes from being committed.

* A ban on high capacity mags would be a real accomplishment: Jason Ross makes the case that even if an assault weapons ban doesn’t pass Congress, banning high capacity magazines would itself be a real policy achievement that could save lives. I would also add that for all the focus on the politics of the assault ban, comprehensive improvement of the background check system is a higher priority for gun reform advocates, and is also a more achievable one.

* And the conventional wisdom about gun control is wrong: You keep reading that gun control is dead on arrival in Congress, but as Robert Spitzer documents, history and precedent actually argue for the possibility that legislation could pass. Yes, the GOP controls the House. But there is precedent for horrific, high profile events forcing Republicans to allow votes on gun reform.

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.