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POLITICS

No, Tom Cole was not right about the fiscal cliff

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll,Fiscal Cliff

The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza is trying to push the idea that Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., was right: Republicans should have caved immediately after the election and given Obama higher rates on income over $250,000. Cillizza writes:

Yes, ultimately the fiscal cliff deal raised the dollar amount of those exempted from a tax increase to $400,000 — thanks to McConnell — which, on the numbers alone, was a better deal for Republicans.

But, if politics is all about picking not only your fights but the ground on which those fights take place — and it is — then signing off on a deal in early- to mid-December for $250,000 on a no-win issue for you is far better than dragging it out beyond a self-imposed deadline in full view of the public to wring another few hundred thousand dollars out of it.

It’s the difference between tactics (a series of one-off maneuvers with no broad thematic plan) and strategy (that broad, thematic so-called long game). Cole (and McConnell) seem to have grasped that the long-range strategy dictated a deal be done on the fiscal cliff with as little public airing of grievances — Festivus reference! — as possible.

So right away Cillizza concedes that Republicans eventually got a better deal than Cole’s strategy would have produced. But Cillizza then fudges the numbers. Cole’s cave would have netted Obama $824 billion higher taxes. By holding out, Republicans limited that tax hike to about $600 billion. So, contrary to Cillizza’s fuzzy math, Republicans were able to let Americans keep $200 billion more of their money … not just a “few hundred thousand dollars.”

Politically, Cillizza’s case is even weaker. A quick cave to Obama on taxes in the wake of his election wouldn’t have prevent any “public airing of grievances.” Conservatives would probably have been even more upset … and louder. Plus, the Chris Cillizza’s of the world would have spent the whole month talking about how strong Obama is and how weak Republicans are. But since Republicans didn’t cave, Obama now looks just as weak and ineffectual as Republicans.

Remember, Obama’s first offer was for a $1.6 trillion tax hike and an infinite debt limit hike. Boehner countered with $800 billion. The final deal was for only $600 billion.

How is that not a “win” for Republicans?

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