The editors at the National Review are urging surrender. Total surrender. They say it would be “better to pass legislation extending the middle-class tax cuts and to allow the top rates to rise” than it would be to accept anything approaching what Tim Geithner offered them. After advising senators to keep their yaps shut about capitulation in order to avoid undermining the House’s negotiating position, they give up on linking the tax hikes to entitlement reform:
We have more sympathy for those Republicans who are urging the White House to show some leadership on restraining the growth of Medicare and Social Security — but they too are making a mistake. Republicans cannot politically sustain a public position of being willing to raise taxes on the rich only if popular benefits are cut. If they come across as being willing to shield the middle class from tax increases only if entitlements are cut, that position will hurt them still worse. Entitlement reform is a possible result of this deal only if Obama leads on it publicly. Since he does not seem inclined to do that, Republicans should stop expecting entitlement reform as a likely outcome of negotiations.
What they are saying is unambiguous. They want the House to pass an extension of the middle-class tax cuts without preserving the cuts for the top two percent, and without getting anything in return.
However, they recognize that the base must be appeased somewhat, so they have a proposed script for some Kabuki theatre:
House Republicans need to prepare for the possibility that taxes are indeed going to go up across the board and that Obama, the Democrats, and the media will blame them for it. Their first order of business should be to pass an extension of all the tax cuts. It may soon prove marginally helpful to be able to say that they passed a bill to block tax increases on the middle class, and are ready to do it again.
This part needs some translation. They want John Boehner to have the House pass an extension of all of the Bush tax cuts, including on the top two percent. The Republicans will then attempt to argue that they tried and failed to protect the middle class tax cuts. But this advice only makes sense if the Republicans don’t follow the editors first piece of advice, which was to give the president precisely what he wants. It’s not really about assigning blame after we go over the cliff. It’s about avoiding going over the cliff by capitulating, but making it look to the base like you made an honest attempt to stand on your principles.
With advice like this, I don’t see much fight left on the right.