Freshly reelected, the president wants to exploit a crisis again. This time it’s the fiscal cliff mess. His plan would avoid the cliff, but at the cost of strangling the economy. Republicans are wary of mounting full-throttle opposition, especially to Obama’s bid to raise taxes on the rich. But that’s what is required, and it will benefit them—and the country—in the end.
Republicans are in a stronger position than in 2009. Obama isn’t. He won reelection thanks to a negative campaign of historic proportions. He has no mandate. And now he’s made the mistake of thinking he’s more popular and powerful than he really is. This is how second terms crumble.
House speaker John Boehner has rejected the president’s proposal as unserious. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell broke into laughter when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner outlined it for him. It’s a wonder even Geithner kept a straight face. Because what the president wants is the same-old same-old: tax hikes immediately, spending cuts down the road. We know how this plays out. Taxes go up, spending cuts never materialize. Obama is also seeking a new $50 billion stimulus. And there’s more. Obama wants to raise the debt limit without the approval of Congress and force banks to refinance troubled home mortgages.
At the moment, Republicans don’t have the option of walking out of compromise talks with the White House. They may have to later if Obama refuses to back down. But for now, their assignment is to negotiate wisely with Obama on an array of issues.