On Friday’s broadcast of PBS’s “NewsHour,” New York Times columnist David Brooks offered a particularly bleak prediction for Republicans in the pending sequestration battle.
With the March 1 deadline to initiate massive budget cuts looming, Brooks said there is very little movement on either side, and added that with Republicans down in public opinion, they’re likely to take the hit if they can’t broker an agreement with Democrats.
“There were a couple of phone calls yesterday, but that’s about it — just phone calls,” Brooks said. “I certainly don’t see any movement. As Mark [Shields] said, the polls show the Democrats will probably profit. The Republicans still feel trapped, though. They feel they gave up a big tax increase a couple of weeks ago, and they can’t give up another. And that’s sort of the asking price. And so they feel they have got to show they can cut spending. I personally think the likely loser in this is the Republicans. They’re less popular.”
“They’re associated with cut — with government — controlling government spending,” he continued. “And they have basically got a problem. I think they need to show the American people that we like some government programs. We don’t like others. They need to be able to distinguish between the two. Unfortunately, when they embrace this, they are embracing a piece of legislation that makes no distinction between good government and bad government. It just cuts randomly across the board, and, worse, doesn’t even cut the things that actually create the debt problem, which is the entitlement programs. So, to me, this is both a substantive and political serious problem for Republicans.”
The Republican Party has long pledged spending cuts, Brooks said, but when an impasse occurs — such as the 1995 government shutdown under former President Bill Clinton — they typically take the hit from public opinion, and then concede.
“Listen, the Republicans have been doing this since 1995, since the government shutdown,” Brooks said. “They make a big show. They tell themselves, we’re going to control spending. They do something sort of ham-fisted. And it — when the public reaction, then they cave in, and they come with concessions. So it’s not like we have not been here before. I just wish they had a little smarter strategy. And if I could give them one piece of advice is, don’t worry about discretionary spending. When you are talking about cutting government, domestic discretionary spending, which is stuff for the National Institutes of Health and TSA, that’s small potatoes. They’re always focused on that, which is sort of the sympathetic popular stuff. Focus on the entitlement programs. But they are off doing the wrong thing, in my view.”