What does it sound like when bullies discover that they’re losing a fight that they started, one that they’re likely to keep losing for the foreseeable future?
Unless he takes a more bipartisan approach to fiscal cliff negotiations, President Barack Obama “guarantees a permanent war” between Democrats and Republicans, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich predicted Sunday.
“He wants to prove he can dominate,” Gingrich said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding that on fiscal cliff negotiations, Obama aims not to compromise, but to “block [House Speaker John] Boehner into collapse.”
Why the prediction of an endless partisan fight? “Because everybody on the right, at every level, sooner or later is going to get sick of it,” Gingrich said.
Correct me if I’m wrong — some will try to correct me though I’m right — but didn’t the Republicans start this all-out, scorched-earth permanent war thing? Wasn’t this whole thing their idea in the first place?
And now they beg for compromise?
It was almost exactly two years ago to the day that Speaker John Boehner made it clear that there would be no compromise in Washington. “I am not going to compromise my principles nor will I compromise the will of the American people,” he told Judy Woodruff of “60 Minutes”.
“You’re afraid of the word?” Woodruff asked.
“I reject the word,” the new speaker said.
Whatever his other failings, Gingrich knows first-hand the realities of being speaker. He knows what it’s like to have go searching for votes. So when he predicts, as he did Sunday, that “if Boehner works out an agreement with President Obama, it has to be an agreement that brings 120 or 140 House Democrats,” that tells you an awful lot.
A House majority requires 218 votes. If Boehner needs 120 to 140 Democrats to support an eventual deal, it means that close to two-thirds of his own party will probably be voting against the deal that he agrees to support. It means that Nancy Pelosi will have a lot to say about what that final package contains. And it means that the House GOP caucus will afterward find itself split between those RINOs who voted for the deal, and those hardliners who voted against it, with Boehner among those who supported it.
“(Boehner) can be the speaker of a block of Republicans working with Democrats or he can be the speaker of the hard right fighting the Democrats,” Gingrich said. “There’s no middle ground here. He will not carry the hard right for any deal.”
Again, this is a confrontation that congressional Republicans have wanted for years. They plotted and strategized to create just this opportunity, never imagining that when the moment came, they would be the ones pleading for compromise and a bit of political mercy.
And it doesn’t get any better in the immediate future. Next on the agenda when Congress returns?
Immigration reform, with Democrats pressing for a path to citizenship and Republicans again split between those who recognize the political and moral necessity of such a step, and those who, like Boehner two years ago, still reject the word “compromise”.
– Jay Bookman