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headlines for today's pundit round-up
Jonathan Chait, among others, points out that David Brooks' awful column on the sequester is merely a symptom of centrist inability to admit one side compromises and is reasonable, and Republicans are in another place altogether:
A virulent example of [crazy from the center] has emerged during the latest iteration of the fiscal debate. Advocates of what Matthew Yglesias calls “BipartisanThink” have found themselves trapped between two impulses. On the one hand, they fervently believe that the country’s most vital priority is to pass a plan to reduce the deficit through a mix of cuts to retirement programs and reduced tax deductions. On the other hand, they believe with equal fervor that the two parties are equally to blame for the country’s problems in general, and the failure to pass such a plan in particular.

Their problem is that one party agrees with them completely, and the other rejects them. This creates a paradox between the two mental tentpoles of BipartisanThink. The solution is to simply wish away the facts, thus bringing them into line with reality.

David Brooks today devotes his column to upholding the known truths of BipartisanThink. He lashes out at the obstinacy of the Republican Party and its refusal to compromise on the deficit. But he has to balance it out by asserting that President Obama, too, lacks any such plan...

Second Update: Brooks does an interview with Ezra Klein, which ends up as a total takedown. Brooks admits Obama does have a plan, but takes refuge in the claim that the Congressional Budget Office didn't score it. Klein informs him that the CBO doesn't score informal negotiating offers, but did score the elements as they appeared in Obama's budget. The best part is when Brooks asserts that a centrist Democrat like Robert Rubin would be proposing something way more moderate than what Obama is offering:

Brooks: In my ideal world, the Obama administration would do something Clintonesque: They’d govern from the center; they’d have a budget policy that looked a lot more like what Robert Rubin would describe, and if the Republicans rejected that, moderates like me would say that’s awful, the White House really did come out with a centrist plan.

Klein: But I’ve read Robert Rubin’s tax plan. He wants $1.8 trillion in new revenues.

That is a brutal bluff-calling.
Here's the key points from the Robert Rubin et. al. tax plan David Brooks didn't have time to read:
@mattyglesias via Tweetbot for Mac

Ezra's interview with Brooks is here. It took place at the salad bar at Applebee's.

What did David Brooks think the upside was in doing that dialogue with @EzraKlein?
@mattyglesias via Tweetbot for Mac

David Brooks' postscript:
The above column was written in a mood of justified frustration over the fiscal idiocy that is about to envelop the nation. But in at least one respect I let my frustration get the better of me. It is true, as the director of the Congressional Budget Office has testified, that the administration has not proposed a specific anti-sequester proposal that can be scored or passed into law. It is not fair to suggest, as I did, that tax hikes for the rich is the sole content of the president’s approach. The White House has proposed various constructive changes to spending levels and entitlement programs. These changes are not nearly adequate in my view, but they do exist, and I should have acknowledged the balanced and tough-minded elements in the president’s approach.
Many of his columns aren't fair for similar reasons, but this time he got called on it. Good for the pundit community for doing so.

More below the fold.

Dana Milbank:

“It is not a white flag of surrender,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.

This was technically true: Scott did not wave a banner of any color when he announced Wednesday that he wants Florida to expand Medicaid, a key piece of Obamacare.

But make no mistake: Scott, a tea party Republican and outspoken critic of the law, was laying down arms in defeat.

Of course he was. There is no substance to tea party opposition to Obama's policies, and faced with reality, reality wins eventually.

@HotlineJosh @PeterHambyCNN @LoganDobson Press needs to cover the GOP governance disaster more than they do... a lot more. "NO" is not enough.
@DemFromCT via TweetDeck
@DemFromCT @HotlineJosh @PeterHambyCNN I'm sure they can fit some pieces about how we're ruining everything in between the obituaries of us
@LoganDobson via Twitter for Android

Jonathan Bernstein:

As we get closer to the sequestration deadline, followed a few weeks later by the appropriations deadline that could cause a government shutdown, new polling by Pew reminds everyone why the Republican position is so hard to maintain: people really don’t like spending cuts. In fact, most Americans want to increase spending on most government programs.

That is, people like the idea of spending cuts when they’re discussed generally, in terms of the overall cost of government. But when it gets down to specific programs, suddenly things change.

Understand that the GOP is addressing their base alone, because they've lost the argument with everyone else, who thinks they are insane.

Michael Gerson:

The Republican Party needs a reality check

The Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, lost by 5 million votes to a beatable incumbent presiding over an anemic economy. The explanation is not purely technical or personality oriented. At the national level, Republicans have a winning message for a nation that no longer exists.

For starters. Of course, Obama won because of the economy, not despite it.

 Keith Naughton (Republican):

For years the NRA has outworked, outspent and, most importantly, outfoxed the gun-control lobby. The NRA plays politics better and smarter than just about anyone else in Washington. The gun-control lobby plays politics worse than just about anyone.

The crux of the problem is that the gun-control lobby has chosen to be wholly dependent on the Democratic Party, while the NRA - although primarily supporting Republicans - actively and aggressively seeks out Democrats to support. The last thing the NRA wants is to be completely reliant on one party. By supporting a key group of Democrats, the NRA not only has a voice in the Democratic caucus but also forces the Republicans to support them right down the line - after all, GOP leaders have nowhere else to go.
The NRA has shown it can and will support a Democrat over a Republican - and win. Thus, the NRA is both courted and feared. After the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress, no less a figure than Rahm Emanuel, then chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, crowed about how key NRA support was to the Democrats' victory.

Where is the gun-control lobby in all this? Nowhere.

Article should be past tense: while the article may once have been accurate, the world has changed.


They stormed into office two years ago willing to knock heads and make enemies. But now several Republican governors are suddenly in a fix – up for reelection next year in states that Barack Obama carried in November, and with dangerously low approval ratings.

So the GOP executives — including well-known figures like Scott Walker and John Kasich —are swearing off polarizing battles over union power and budget cuts and presenting a softer side to voters. Instead of red-meat conservative causes, they’re emphasizing the pocketbook issues that got them elected in the first place — a shift that will likely be on display this weekend at the National Governors Association’s winter meeting in Washington.

That's the republicans. Then there's a Democrat.

Colin McEnroe on CT's D Governor:

Watch Dan Malloy closely right now, and you might see that rare thing: A politician who has ditched politics in favor of moral seriousness.

That, at least, is my current working theory of Malloy. I believe what he saw and heard in the early hours at Sandy Hook changed him irreversibly. I believe his moment at the open casket of Noah Posner, where the missing lower part of the little boy's face was covered with a cloth, both wounded and electrified the governor.

To understand him right now, you might be better off reading Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky than political commentary. He has seen a terrible, undeniable reality and now searches for a moral response to it.

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