In the spirit of the holiday weekend, the right-of-center New York Times columnist David Brooks set off the polemicist's version of a cherry bomb at a picnic, taking Republicans to task for not wrapping up a debt-ceiling deal with Democrats that included some tax increases.
Brooks, also an NPR political analyst on All Things Considered's weekly Friday roundtable, asserts that Republicans got more than many thought possible in their talks with Vice President Biden and other Democrats.
Even so, they still weren't willing to take "yes" for an answer. All of this led him to wonder whether the party's purpose really to govern or something else.
If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases.
A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth...
... But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That's because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
One of the Senate's most adamant liberals, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, made sure to tweet the Brooks column:
Must-read: #DavidBrooksexplains how #GOP "fanaticism" is the only thing standing in the way of a debt reduction deal.
Conservatives, not surprisingly, failed to share her enthusiasm. Guy Benson, over at The Tipsheet blog on TownHall.com was apparently so moved by Brooks, he took a break from his vacation to attempt a point-by-point rebuttal of Brooks. An excerpt:
As someone who (a) admires the intellect of faintly conservative-ish New York Times columnist David Brooks, and (b) is currently on vacation, I'd humbly submit that some R & R may also be in order for Mr. Brooks. His new column on debt negotiations is lazy, is premised on a series of false assumptions, and — worst of all — relies on a string of strawmen that would make Brooks' one-time political crush, Barack Obama, beam with pride. Brooks has concluded that Republicans are the bad-faith, fanatical actors on the debt ceiling and casts Democrats as the sensible adults in the room. Brooks' column is so wrongheaded, it practically cries out for a thorough fisking — so away we go:
Republican leaders have also proved to be effective negotiators. They have been tough and inflexible and forced the Democrats to come to them. The Democrats have agreed to tie budget cuts to the debt ceiling bill. They have agreed not to raise tax rates. They have agreed to a roughly 3-to-1 rate of spending cuts to revenue increases, an astonishing concession.
Democrats have "agreed not to raise" taxes, but they also insist on "revenue increases." How would that work, exactly? Brooks may protest that Democrats say they won't insist on rate hikes, but how does it square with President Obama's vow to raise marginal income tax rates on millions of small businesses and families when the current tax deal expires?...
Did Brooks realize he'd be ruining people's vacations when he wrote his column?