popular vote by 5 million and his margin of victory by a factor of two
The GOP congressional leadership is right to say that they will not negotiate in private with Mr. Obama, and that tax increases are not on the table, especially after the president received $620 billion in new taxes to end the "fiscal cliff" crisis.First, it basically doesn't matter whether or not Republicans are willing to negotiate in private over the debt limit—President Obama has repeatedly said he won't negotiate over the debt limit, period. There will be no negotiations because there's nothing to negotiate. For the debt ceiling to get raised, the House is going to need to raise the debt ceiling—no strings attached.
But this means House Republicans must pass a measure pairing specific spending cuts with a debt-ceiling increase that will have few, if any, Democratic votes. It would therefore be tactically wise for Republicans to draw many of these cuts from the recommendations of Mr. Obama's own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (aka Simpson-Bowles).
Second, if raising the debt limit with strings attached were a viable option, it would be absurd for Republicans to refuse to negotiate over those strings. President Obama hasn't ruled out negotiations because he's trying to be a dick—he's ruled them out because there's nothing to negotiate: Republicans will either raise the debt ceiling or they won't. Republicans clearly wish President Obama would change his position, but asking him to negotiate by refusing to negotiate over something he's already said is non-negotiable is ... the kind of fantasy thinking that leads you to believe Mitt Romney still might give an inaugural address on Jan. 21.
Third, even if the rest of Rove's proposal made sense, Republicans couldn't possibly put forward a package of specific spending cuts drawn from the Simpson-Bowles plan because the Simpson-Bowles plan didn't itemize specific cuts, rather it proposed cuts to broad categories like defense spending and non-defense discretionary spending.
But even if Rove meant to advise House Republicans to base their spending cuts on the levels proposed by Simpson-Bowles, he'd still have a problem because that's pretty much what happened during the last debt limit fiasco. Outside of increasing taxes and cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (both of which Rove says are off the table), our current spending levels are already pretty close to what the Simpson-Bowles plan proposed. In fact, other than the tax and entitlements that Rove says Republicans shouldn't touch, the only way to get closer to the Simpson-Bowles spending levels would be to cut defense spending by even more than the sequester.
In other words, Karl Rove's brilliant plan for how to deal with the debt ceiling is for Republicans to refuse to talk with President Obama but simultaneously pass legislation that would increase the debt limit and cut defense spending. Suffice it to say, no Republican who takes the time to figure out the implications of what Rove is proposing will actually follow his advice. The one type of spending they like is defense spending and there's no way they are going to propose cutting it beyond the levels contained in the sequester. About the only thing you can say on Rove's behalf here is that he probably doesn't realize just how thoroughly idiotic his own idea is.