A lot of conservatives are having fun at President Obama's expense after his latest gaffe. In the midst of testy debt-limit negotiations, Obama told House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, "Don't call my bluff."
The first rule in bluffing is to keep it a secret that you're bluffing. So, technically speaking, that's like a con man saying, "Don't give any weight to the fact that I'm lying."
And while I do think Obama is not telling the truth about a great number of things, conservatives should look closer to home if they want to criticize impolitic truth-telling.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a complicated plan that would truly call Obama's fundamental bluff: that the White House honestly favors a courageous "grand bargain" that would make serious and steep cuts to entitlements in exchange for tax "revenue" increases (i.e., tax hikes).
High among the problems with McConnell's plan is how hard it is to explain. But basically, Republicans would give Obama all of the responsibility for proposing specific spending cuts and for raising the debt ceiling three times up to $2.5 trillion over the next year. Obama would get his way unless a supermajority of Congress objected, so the GOP could vote against Obama without stopping him. Default would be averted without Republicans being forced to vote for tax hikes.
Conservatives are split on the idea. Personally I think it might be the least bad of the currently possible options.
But what's particularly frustrating is how McConnell is selling his proposal. In an interview with radio host Laura Ingraham, McConnell explained his thinking: "If we go into default, (Obama) will say that Republicans are making the economy worse. ... The president will have the bully pulpit to blame the Republicans for all of this destruction," setting himself up for re-election.
"I refuse to help Barack Obama get re-elected by marching Republicans into a position where we have co-ownership of a bad economy," McConnell added. "That's a very bad positioning going into an election."
McConnell is right. But McConnell isn't a pundit. Why the hell is he reading his stage direction out loud? Last fall, he said that the "single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Most conservatives agree with him, because without a Republican president, you can't repeal ObamaCare or do the other things conservatives believe are necessary to set the country back on the right track. Democrats see things the same way, but from a liberal perspective.
But Democrats, for all their internecine squabbles, have the discipline to take the high road rhetorically.