A lot of smart conservatives have argued that Republicans should walk away from the fiscal negotiations or dare President Obama to go over the fiscal cliff if he going to insist on making ridiculous proposals that set back the negotiations. Listen, it is his recession, too, and at least we would get away from the fiction that only raising taxes on the rich will pay for Obama's super-sized welfare state.
My reaction is: We may get there. but not yet. It is really too soon to tell if Obama is wasting time (albeit in a dangerously unhelpful manner). It is still preferable to try for a package that includes real spending cuts as well as entitlement and tax reform. If that becomes impossible, only then would the cliff look more attractive.
For now, however, Senate and House Republicans are playing it right. They have even got the mainstream media to notice how unreasonable Obama's non-offer, offer is. ("no concessions"). Some even recognized that the president's "offer" in response to the Republicans' move on revenue was identical to his post-election opening bid.
In their own ways, Sen. Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the past couple of days rather expertly. McConnell's reaction to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's ludicrous proposal -- laughter -- was exactly right. It is a joke, and rather than railing at specific parts, a guffaw nicely communicates to voter how un-serious the president is at this point.
Likewise Boehner's more-in-sadness-than-in-anger tone after his call with Obama keeps his party from becoming unhinged and keeps a respectful dialogue with the president. Even more so, his retort to Sen. Harry Reid's threatened and ill-conceived filibuster threat (it is only meaningful if the other body is in Democratic hands, Harry) made the point that whatever the merits, it is a childish, destructive obsession that won't get Dems anything when filibuster-insulated legislation is declared "dead on arrival" in the House. ("Any bill that reaches a Republican-led House based on Senate Democrats' heavy-handed power play would be dead on arrival."
The GOP's message this week to the Dems can be summed up in two words: Grow up. Only after the president has definitively shown that the Democrats prefer the politics of adolescence should the GOP begin passing out parachutes for the group jump over the cliff.