The Washington Post

Obama’s trap for Republicans

In the disaster that remains of the supercommittee's failure to achieve a budget compromise may lie some seeds of life for the Democrats. As Ed points out, Republicans, uncharacteristically, are opposing a tax cut, specifically an extension of a cut in the employee share of payroll taxes. If they push this position, President Obama will have a field day as they step into his trap.

Obama’s political aim: Move away from the general and get the Republicans on the specifics. He tried this on health care, where individual pieces of the law, such as insurance reforms, polled much higher than what became the concept of Obamacare. Similarly, the supercommittee's failure in the aggregate is a vexing muddle, but some of its potential pieces -- extending the payroll tax cut -- are popular. This is turf Obama can win on.

It's hard to believe that Republicans won't come to their senses and support a tax cut -- after all, isn't that their main purpose as a political entity? But, in their fervor to deny Obama any sort of "victory," they could overplay their hand. So far, Republicans have assumed that obstinance is the best policy, because Obama, as a single and dominant political figure, will assume a disproportionate share of the blame for any policy failure. If there is collateral damage to the institution of Congress, so be it. Republicans can take comfort in the adage that people may hate Congress, but they like their individual legislator.

Surely, Republicans still listen to smart advice like Ed's, but here's to hoping they don't.


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