Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio wowed the Beltway conservatives last night, which is a little bit like the British cheering a successful evacuation from Dunkirk. The GOP indeed lives to fight another day, and that day will be here quickly as 2014’s candidates are already declaring –Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito for the United States Senate in West Virginia and former Governor Michael Rounds for the same in South Dakota.
Which weights the negotiations over the fiscal cliff with a great deal of political as well as economic significance. The parties purport to care about the latter, but they are really striving about the former, and President Obama has won the first few rounds of positioning because, once again, the GOP took a few weeks off and the president never sleeps when it comes to politics.
The president has defined “winning”: any rate hike for the upper income group(s). The Republicans have not defined “winning,” so anything they agree to won’t be labeled as much. This is where the Speaker and Leader McConnell need to retool, and quickly.
One smart way to define a GOP “win” that doesn’t conflict with the president’s announced goal is to take up the traditional role of the party and defend defense. Yesterday I brought a series of defensniks on the program to explain the very dire consequences to the Pentagon of “going over the cliff. The Council on Foreign Relations’ Max Boot, AEI’s Thomas Donnelly and Gary Schmitt and David Langstaff, president and CEO of TASC, Inc. all reviewed the incredible damage done to our national security by deep cuts already imposed and the worse damage that awaits any across-the-board cuts imposed by fiscal brinksmanship and “sequestration.”
If Boehner and McConnell define “winning” in the negotiations as preserving 2012’s level of Defense spending for 2013, they can bring that home and in doing so not only protect the nation’s defenses but begin to reassert the national security brand of the GOP.
There are other markers that could be collected. A caller to the program yesterday suggested that for every hike in the upper bracket a cut in the lower bracket be accomplished. That is a very useful idea with a compelling narrative.