The plethora of “Republicans are not [serious/sincere/saying anything new] about [a positive agenda/sequester/immigration]” coming from liberal pundits who generally [don’t speak to/ know any/bother listening to] Republicans/conservatives would be [funny/annoying/ludicrous] if it were not so transparent. Their exercise is less journalism, more wishful thinking.

Sen. Marco Rubio at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters).

Saying there is nothing new in Sen. Marco Rubio’s immigration plan or Sen. Orrin Hatch’s Medicare plan is just false. Rubio, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and numerous other conservative pols and think-tankers (at the recent National Review Institute, for example) have been setting forth a Republican reform agenda on everything from college tuition reform to Obamacare alternatives to Medicaid and Medicare reform to break-up of the big banks to tax reform in an effort to present a clear alternative to President Obama’s brand of liberal statism. Lefty pundits might not like the party of no turning into the can-do party, but it’s silly to deny that thought and effort is being put into a conservative policy resurgence. That most of it won’t become law is not to make it irrelevant of insincere; it’s just a factor of the president’s maladroitness at finding trade-offs with Republicans.

On sequester, I can say from dozens and dozens of conversations (both off and on the record), the Republican leadership as well as the rank and file are entirely sanguine about either going forward with the sequester or getting offsetting cuts. (It is now the president, hearing hoofbeats from the left, who is panicking.) Liberals may think this unwise, but simply repeating with no factual support that the GOP is bluffing doesn’t strike me as solid punditry.

The “nothing to see here, just keep walking” school of left-wing punditry continues an unfortunate pattern we saw in the election — a political strategy based on impugning your opponents’ motives rather than debating the merits of their proposals. It saves the Democrats from defending their policy positions ( e.g., keep growing the welfare state but not raising taxes on the middle class) or seriously contesting the GOP plans.

Perhaps conservatives take Obama too seriously (really, the president has plainly given up on most of his anti-gun agenda, and much of his talk on gay marriage, as his White House spokesman confessed, is not going to translate into federal legislation). In fact neither party in our divided government is going to get most of what is on its wish list. That doesn’t mean, however, that either side is unserious about its agenda or that we should ignore genuine attempts to innovate.

The left’s insistence that Republicans don’t mean what they say, and aren’t doing what they plainly are, strikes me as defensive. Perhaps the left should spend more time thinking through the consequences of the Republicans’ moves (how Obama will manage huge defense cuts) and coming up with their own policy alternatives (let’s see the Senate pass immigration reform). Then we can have a good substantive debate on the merits, rather a useless attack on suspected motives.