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Republicans are their own demagogues

In his Jan. 15 op-ed column, “Short-term battles, long-term costs,” Michael Gerson mangled language and logic to blame President Obama for the political predicament of congressional Republicans. Mr. Gerson interpreted Mr. Obama’s opposition to Republican policies as payback: Humiliated by defeat in the 2010 elections, the president now wants to humiliate Republicans. He knows, Mr. Gerson said, that Republicans “are forced by the momentum of their ideology to take positions on spending that he can easily demagogue.”

But principled opposition is not demagoguery. And to admit, as Mr. Gerson did, that it is Republican ideological “momentum” that forces their hand is to show that this is not Mr. Obama getting even.

The president does not need to “paint” Republicans as “obstructionists and extremists who are willing to destroy the economy . . . for their own ideological purposes.” Their own words and actions do that for him. 

Richard Handler, Charlottesville

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Like spoiled children who threaten to jump out a window every time a parent tells them “no,” House Republicans who threaten to allow the nation to default on its debt now face a President Obama who’s had enough and says, “Fine, go ahead and jump.”

Siding with the children, Michael Gerson called on Mr. Obama to rise above petty, short-term “political calculations” and engage the House in serious negotiations over our nation’s long-term debt issues. Fair enough. But what type of balanced fiscal deal could Speaker John Boehner (R) get his caucus to accept? Could the speaker get his tea party die-hards to accept any tax increases at all, or would they agree to spending cuts only? I think we know the answer to that.

Republicans have reaped what they’ve sown. It was their short-term political thinking in the 2010 elections that led them to ignore the tea party’s obvious political liabilities and to lend support to any wild-eyed candidate who could win an election. As they say, be careful for what you wish for. 

John Dalby, Leesburg

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