In the Arena

Latest Column: The Press Depression

  • Share
  • Read Later

Well, everyone was feeling really bummed about the 2012 presidential campaign–BC. (Before Clinton.) And while a gust of great oratory always lifts my spirits, we still have a gridlocked political system and a fiscal cliff looming. In the two days since I wrote this column, I’ve done some reporting–the fiscal cliff seems to be Topic A among the Democratic Party’s Wall Street contingent–and had some second thoughts about my most depressing conclusion: that Mitt Romney may be better positioned to make the grand budget/deficit deal than President Obama. Here are some additional cogitations.

It’s All About John Boehner. If Obama wins, will Boehner make a deal? One close friend of the President’s told me that it was “90%” certain that Boehner would make deals on both the Fiscal Cliff and Immigration, since rationality will have dictated to the Republican Party that they’re on the wrong side of history on both these crucial issues.

But Wait A Minute…Since When Did Rationality Matter? Well, maybe, another finance guy proposed to me, if the Tea Party suffers some serious losses in the coming election, Boehner will acquire the, well, brass–in the immortal words of Bill Clinton–to stand up to the wingnuts. I doubt it, especially if the most serious loss–the presidency–is the result of having nominated an unloved moderate named Romney for the job. In that case, the wingers will be all the more convinced that they only way they win is with a true believer, and without compromise of any sort. (Although it is possible, as the financial guy argued back, that enough non-wingnut Republicans will decide not to Thelma and Louise with the wingers to sneak a Grand Bargain through the House.)(To which I could only say, name me ten of them.)

But Klein, Do You Really Believe Romney would make that deal if he wins? Uh…got me. There is absolutely no evidence that Mitt Romney will have the…brass to stand up to Boss Limbaugh. I can fantasize that under all the extremist crud he’s barnacled himself with during the campaign, a moderate Romnoid dealmaker still exists. But I have zero–or zee-row, in the immortal enunciation of Bill Clinton–evidence. And if he did, the right wing of his party would go berserk and start a half-dozen rebel primary candidacies in Iowa by Mother’s Day.

And so, here’s what is actually going to happen. Nothing. And I have it on good authority, from one of the smartest senior politicians in the Democratic Party, that the odds-on bet is that they’ll kick the can down the road. I don’t know about that. I’m not that cynical. Surely, the President, if reelected, will demand that we finally return to the modest, sane levels of taxation on higher income Americans that the immortal Bill Clinton imposed in the 199os, right? Surely, we can’t go on this way, paralyzed, right? To which my interlocutor replied, “Hey Klein, you wanna bet on that?” Actually, no.

And so, thoroughly depressed once more, I await the President’s words tonight.

By the way, Elaine Kamarck of Harvard’s Kennedy School–and the Democratic Party’s platform committee–has some important misgivings about the pre-Clinton tone of the convention.