By refusing to accept tax increases in a deal to raise the debt ceiling, Republicans are behaving like "fanatics," writes David Brooks of The New York Times.
Anti-tax Republicans "have no sense of moral decency," he adds. They are "willing to stain their nation's honor" to "worship their idol." If this "deal of the century" goes down, as he calls the Barack Obama offer, "Republican fanaticism" will be the cause.
"The GOP has become a cult" that has replaced reason with "feverish" and "cockamamie beliefs," writes Richard Cohen of The Washington Post. The Republican "presidential field (is) a virtual political Jonestown," the Guyana site where more than 900 followers of the Peoples Temple drank the Kool-Aid that Rev. Jim Jones mixed for them.
Does anyone think this an appropriate description of such mild-mannered men as Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman?
"The GOP's Hezbollah Wing Is Now Fully in Control," screams The New Republic over a recent lead editorial. Other columnists charge the GOP with holding America "hostage" by refusing to accept tax hikes to avert a default on the debt.
What to make of this hysteria?
The Establishment is in a panic. It has been jolted awake to the realization that the GOP House, if it can summon the courage to use it, is holding a weapon that could enable it to bridle forever the federal monster that consumes 25 percent of gross domestic product.
To bully and blackmail the GOP into surrendering the weapon and betraying its principles and signing on to new taxes, that establishment has unleashed rhetoric more befitting a war on terror than a political dispute.
For how, exactly, are Republicans threatening the republic?
The House has not said it will not raise the debt ceiling. It must and will. It has not said it will not accept budget cuts. It has indicated a willingness to accept the budget cuts agreed to in the Biden negotiations.
Where the GOP has stood its ground is on tax increases. Is fanaticism behind this stance? Does this manifest insanity? How does this imperil the nation's honor and future?
Behind the GOP opposition to tax hikes is the party's word given to the country that elected it in 2010, its political principles, its traditional view of what not to do when the nation is in a slump, and party history.
Fully 235 Republican House members signed a 2010 pledge not to raise taxes. And by giving their word they were rewarded with victory.
Should they now dishonor that pledge, what would differentiate them from George H.W. Bush, who famously promised in 1988: "Read my lips! No new taxes!" then went back on his word and took the party down to defeat with him?
Second, the GOP is the party of small government and low taxes.
Why would it agree to raise taxes on the private productive sector when federal spending, now at a peacetime record of 25 percent of GDP, is the problem?
Third, America is in a slump, with 9 percent of the workforce unemployed, another 7 percent underemployed and the economy growing at a tepid 1.8 percent.
What school of economic thought -- Keynesian, supply-side or monetarist -- says raising taxes in a slumping economy is the recipe for a return to prosperity? There is no such school.
Why, when the whole country is talking about the need to create jobs, would Congress raise taxes on a private productive sector that employs six in seven Americans and is the creator of real jobs?
In 1982, President Reagan agreed to the same deal being offered the party today: three dollars in spending cuts for every dollar in tax increases to which he assented. As he ruefully told this writer more than once, he was lied to. He got one dollar in spending cuts for every three in tax increases.
What of the charge that the Republican House is holding America hostage, blackmailing the nation with a suicidal threat to throw us all into national default if it does not get its way?
This smear is the precise opposite of the truth.
The Republican Party has not said it will refuse to raise the debt ceiling. It has an obligation to do so, and will. The House has simply said it will not accept new taxes on a nation whose fiscal crisis comes from overspending.
If the GOP keeps its word, raises the debt ceiling and accepts budget cuts agreed to in the Biden negotiations, the only people who can prevent the debt ceiling's being raised are Senate Democrats or Obama, in which case, they, not the GOP, will have thrown the nation into default.
It is the establishment that is resorting to extortion, saying, in effect, to the House GOP: Give us the new taxes we demand, or Obama will veto the debt ceiling and we will all blame you for the default.
They're bluffing. The GOP should stand its ground -- and fix bayonets.