The Worm Has Turned

July 12, 2011 1:11 p.m.
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Grover Norquist — Grover Norquist! — has come out in favor of Mitch McConnell’s proposal to go ahead and raise the debt limit and leave spending cuts up to Obama.

Here’s the key quote: “Obama is playing politics. Republicans need to force him to do what the established press is not doing. He says he’s got a serious proposal. Could we see it written down please?”

Now Republicans want Obama to come up with the cuts. Not enact them. They’re reserving that power to the Congress. But he writes the list; he’s on the hook for the proposal.Remember just yesterday Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) was unwilling to cobble together a list of the $2 trillion in cuts needed to strike a deal with Obama. Not unable to come up with a list, but unwilling politically to be on the hook for the cuts that Republicans say are necessary to save the country from financial ruin. Too tough. Better politically to try to foist it off on Obama. Let him eat the Life cereal. He’ll eat anything.

I seriously wonder if we’ve finally reached the moment, some thirty years in the making, when Republicans have come face-to-face with the stark political choices their anti-tax ideology ultimately forces them to make — and they have balked, turned away from the brink, realized they don’t really have the stomach for it after all, reducing their three decades of anti-tax jihadism in the end into one giant, long-running con.

DC is full of GOP think tanks that have spent years coming up with myriad ways of cutting spending. You name any conceivable combination of spending cuts and someone somewhere in the Republican brain trust has mapped it out. But now at what might have been their moment of maximum leverage, they lose their resolve. Let Obama come up with the cuts. Let him pay the political price.

If you’ve suspected all along that Republicans’ anti-tax hegemony was not ideological but political — a soothing political fantasy to woo voters — today you are vindicated. The problem? A lot of Republican true-believers from the libertarian wing of the party have long suspected the same thing. And there will be hell to pay if their suspicions are confirmed.

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