It's to their credit that Republicans are obsessed with getting the government to address its unconscionable and unmanageable debt, freeing up the productive private sector to create economic growth and maintaining the nation's military preeminence. But there's something almost pathetic about the way leading Republicans complain that the president doesn't negotiate in good faith. Of course he doesn't. He's not interested in governing -- at least not with Republicans. He's determined to campaign from now until November 2014 so that he can replace them.
Democrats are so focused on blaming any misfortune on Republicans that they've become almost cartoonishly predictable. Mr. Obama devoted the first two years of his term, after his policies failed to deliver the economic results his administration had promised, to blaming his predecessor. Following the 2010 elections, the president continued to shake the George W. Bush mask with one hand and pointed the finger at the Republicans in Congress with the other. It was the Republicans who were to blame when the recovery dissipated, unemployment remained high and labor force participation tanked. The how part was a little vague, but never mind.
The sequester is just the latest opportunity to play blame the Republicans. President Obama lost no time in anticipatory blame shifting. "As long as the sequester's in place, we'll know that economic news could have been better if Congress had not failed to act," he told reporters (aka admirers) on Friday. There's a big snowstorm in the forecast for Washington, D.C. Doubtless it will be called the sequestorm.
While the Democrat-controlled Senate could not manage to pass a budget for four years, it did find time to pass a revised version of the Violence Against Women Act, one of those fat federal excesses that supplants local responsibilities, shovels money to dubious "violence prevention" programs, has perverse incentives (there is evidence that mandating the arrest of alleged abusers, as the first version of the law did, may actually increase death rates from domestic abuse because women are more reluctant to call police) and wastes money (a DOJ study found that among 22 randomly examined grantees, 21 had violated the terms of their grants).
When you call something the Violence Against Women Act, it almost doesn't matter what's in it because Democrats will demolish any Republican who opposes it.
Who will dare to stand up and try to explain that while no one opposes efforts to reduce violence, this law is ill-conceived and ineffective? No one. Republicans weren't about to see themselves portrayed as allies of wife beaters. For the record, wives are actually far safer from domestic abuse than unmarried women. So are the children of married women. The best way to protect women (and children) from domestic violence would be to encourage more women to marry.
The VAWA, along with free contraceptives, suspending deportations and agitation against voter ID, is part of the Democrats' permanent campaign. Republicans are not without recourse to similar tactics. Republicans can use their investigative powers to demand the emails exchanged between the White House and agency heads before the sequester. Was the Obama White House pressuring the departments to make the most painful possible cuts? We already know that under administration duress, a number of cabinet members made false statements about people being fired.
Republicans in the House are also free to pass legislation and challenge the Democrats in the Senate to oppose it.
They could pass an Affordable Energy for America bill encouraging the president to approve the XL pipeline (which his own State Department has just certified would not harm the environment), opening up more federal land for drilling and defunding expensive flops like solar power investment.
They could pass a Reduce Government Waste bill mandating that every department find and eliminate 10 percent of wasteful spending per year. Most importantly, they could pass a health reform proposal that would replace Obamacare. Ideally, such a law would replace the employer-centric model of health insurance by giving individuals, rather than employers, a $5,000 (refundable) tax credit for the purchase of health insurance. They could call it the Genuinely Affordable and Universal Care Act, because unlike Obamacare, it really would be.
None of these bills would pass the Democrat-controlled Senate. But they would acknowledge a reality -- that the permanent campaign must be engaged or it will be lost.