Macho Fairytale of New York

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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The Cocoon’s Jejune Swoon! New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal says there’s a “lesson in negotiation” for Dems in the Republican surrender on payroll tax cuts:

If the Congressional Democrats and the White House stand firm on a principle, and keep up the heat, it may be possible to get the Republicans to back down. I can’t resist pointing out that they should have learned this lesson a lot earlier.

This is silly, part of the dumb Cocooned-Left fantasy that if only Democrats were as tough and nasty as they claim Republicans are they’d get virtually everything they want, and never mind the minor impediments like losing the House in the 2010 election. The fantasy lets them avoid rethinking those “principles” or making concessions to the center or right.**

In truth the payroll tax outcome had little to do with negotiating attitude and everything to do with substance. Republicans surrendered the payroll tax because on that issue they were a mile or two on the losing side. They looked like fools–the great tax cutting party seemingly opposing cuts only when they benefit average Americans. The more publicity the dispute got, the worse Republicans did in the polls, which is why the Dems were suspected of trying to drag out the negotiations. They had the advantage.

But that’s not the case with other issues, including those that came up “earlier”– like, say, raising taxes or cutting government. Those are disputes GOPs tend to win. Keeping up the heat and trying to act tough on those issues last year only made Obama look worse.  One reason the Republicans have caved so quickly on the payroll tax issue is precisely so they could get to those other issues.

P.S.: Rosenthal says he learned about the GOP surrender from Talking Points Memo. That in itself isn’t proof of cocoonery. But it’s evidence! Until Rosenthal starts citing news items he got from Instapundit and Lucianne, TPM‘s Josh Marshall should tell advertisers that he’s the dog wagging the Times tail. … Rosenthal also writes as if he were genuinely surprised by the GOP concession (“I am not making this up”). He seems to have actually believed his own editorials charging that the “do-nothing” Republicans “weren’t  planning” to compromise. Which is evidence of both cocooning and its faithful companion, cluelessness. …


**– Obama’s emphasis on a payroll tax cut itself might be seen as a flexible concession to the right, rather than a Firm Stand on Principle.  Conservative and centrist economists initially proposed such a cut, after all, as an alternative to Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan, which had a modest payroll tax “rebate” but much larger direct spending on infrastructure, energy etc. Keynesians were lukewarm to payroll tax cuts (arguing they might be saved rather than spent). Many Republicans supported them. The 2% FICA cut that we’re now extending came later, in the lame duck session following the 2010 GOP midterm victory, as part of  a deal to continue the Bush tax cuts.

Mickey Kaus