The good news is that the tea-partying House Republicans have copped a plea and caved to reality. Chastened by their ideological isolation, and finally recognizing the political stupidity of opposing a middle-class tax cut at Christmas time (or any time), they abruptly surrendered late yesterday and agreed to OK the bipartisan Senate deal that extends the federal payroll tax break for another 60 days.The bad news is that the tea partyers will back in 2012, thirsting for more brinksmanship. The two sides still have to agree on how to extend the payroll tax break for the full year – which was the original plan, lest we forget. The current 60-day extension was the best that the two Senate parties could agree on, and that only happened after the Democrats were forced to dump their pitch for a surtax on the rich (the Republicans, as always, could not abide the idea of raising taxes on the rich).There will be new talks in January on how to pay for a year-long tax break, and it’s a cinch bet that we’ll be stuck with more brinksmanship on the cusp of February, with Democrats reviving the politically popular surtax on the rich, and with House tea partyers demanding deep cuts in social programs and deep incursions into the health reform law as the price for their support. This is no idle prediction on my part, given their general behavior in 2011 – when they fomented the debt ceiling crisis and wound up triggering a downgrade in America’s credit rating, and when their fiscal obstructionism nearly sparked several government shutdowns.But hey, at least for now, we have peace in our time. House Republicans deserve a few props for belatedly realizing that, by dint of their intransigence, they were destroying their own party brand. The GOP has long stood for tax cuts in all economic circumstances – yet here was the House saying no to a middle-class tax cut, seemingly because President Obama wanted it. The House GOP’s extremism was so inept that even Karl Rove recoiled in distaste; as he told Fox News, Republicans “have lost the optics…the question now is how do the Republicans get out of it.” It was so inept that even House Republican rank-and-filers were beginning to crack; as Arkansas congressman Rick Crawford wrote to Boehner, the situation “requires Republicans to not only demand a willingness to compromise, but to offer it as well.”But conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer put it best this morning as he surveyed his side’s political wreckage: “The GOP’s performance nicely reprises that scene in Animal House where the matching band turns into a blind alley and row after row of plumed morons plows into a brick wall, crumbling to the ground in an unceremonious heap.”You have to feel some sympathy for John Boehner, though. The House Speaker is stuck with his tea-partyers. They made his life miserable during this payroll tax cut episode (he originally wanted to OK the Senate deal, at least until they threw their tantrum), and they’ll surely do it again in January – invoking Braveheart anew, vowing to fight to the death rather than accept any Obama terms for a year-long extension. During Boehner’s surrender announcement yesterday, he sheepishly said that the intransigence of his troops this week “may not have been politically the smartest thing in the world” – one of this year’s most priceless lines – and we shouldn’t be surprised if, at some postmortem next year, he is compelled to say something similar.When the crisis ended yesterday, Obama released a statement urging Congress to return in January and extend the payroll tax cut for the full year “without drama or delay.” Without drama or delay? Surely he jests.——-One requirement of blogging is that one must be willing to tick people off, and weather the blowback with a shrug. Such was the case yesterday, when Ron Paul devotees detonated their heads in response to what I said here about their fringe hero’s racist and anti-Semitic newsletters. “Fascist” is probably the most printable epithet that I can repeat here, which is fine by me. As Jake Gittes, the ’30 gumshoe in Chinatown, memorably said: “I’m not in business to be loved, but I am in business.”And here’s a new piece of business: Ron Paul’s eight-page newsletter solicitation (PDF link here), in which he warned of a “coming race war in our big cities,” a “federal-homosexual cover-up” to minimize the impact of AIDS, various treacheries by “the Israeli lobby, which plays Congress like a cheap harmonica,” a plot by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (the agency that helps disaster victims) to “suspend the Constitution,” and a possible home visit from an IRS agent toting an AK-47 “with the dead eyes of a mako shark.” And the best way to alleviate your fear? Send him $99 for his newsletters.
The solicitation appeared on Paul’s letterhead. The spin today has been hilarious: one Paul spokesman says that Paul takes responsibility for the content, even though he does not “embrace” its most provocative passages – while another spokesman says Paul didn’t write any of it and disavows all of it.Lest I state the obvious, primary elections offer voters the opportunity to hold candidates accountable for their views, character, and behavior.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1