We’re heading into a holiday weekend, so perhaps you’ll indulge me in encouraging a little fun speculation: what do you think would have happened if Barack Obama had opened the deficit/debt limit talks by forcefully advocating a position that under no circumstances would he ever, ever, ever agree to any new revenues produced by cutting tax loopholes, and would only agree to new revenues produced by raising tax rates on the wealthy?
Would Republicans have fallen for the trap? That is, would they automatically move to oppose the president’s position, and immediately have rapped him for preserving tax breaks? Would they have scurried around trying to find provisions of the tax code that George Soros or Al Gore or Barbra Streisand had taken advantage of? Could the president have suckered Republicans, that is, into advocating the very policy he wanted — just by claiming long and loud that he was unalterably opposed to it?
I have no idea whether it would have worked or not. Three’s a long string of measures, everything from cap-and-trade to Romney-style health care reform to the war in Afghanistan, and including tax cuts such as those in the stimulus bill that Republicans once supported but turned against some time after January 20, 2009. So why wouldn’t the same sort of GOP turnaround have happened if Obama had initially come out hard against ending tax loopholes?
I couldn’t say — but if I were advising Barack Obama, I’d at least consider looking for an issue to test it out on: that is, to announce publicly a position 100% opposed to his actual preference, just to see if knee-jerk opposition to everything Obama opposes could be used to trick Republicans into supporting what the President secretly wants. Hey, it could be worth a try.