On "The Last Word" last night, guest host Ezra Klein was entering a euphoric state of optimism within a rapture of jubilation atop clouds nine, ten and eleven as he rattled off, from a NY Times story, the names of several Republican lawmakers--Peter King, Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, John McCain, Lindsey Graham--who are defying Grover Mephistopheles's demands and going, or so it seems, all Faustian with the Dems.
Guest Robert Reich responded: I'll believe it when I see it.
I'm with Reich on this one.
Dark and contemptible as he is, Mephistopheles is at least a man of his final word. Contemporary Republicans, on the other hand, shift and slither as they say one seemingly conclusive thing but mean another, or another when they mean one. Sen. Graham, for instance, "said that ... closing tax loopholes and eliminating deductions have to be considered, 'even though that may technically violate the pledge.'" This sounds GOP-unorthodox; real renegade stuff, right? Not really. It still rejects the single most prominent position on which President Obama won decisive reelection: a hike in the top marginal tax rate. And keep in mind--as Lindsey surely does--that the SC senator is looking at being tea-party primaried in 2014. Courage has its pragmatic limits.
Klein's larger argument was that the fiscal cliff or curb or slope might well be avoided. A late December deal awaits, believes Klein. Let's grant, for the sake of that argument, a few Senate mavericks. Yet Klein must further assume some rather sizable GOP apostasy in the House, which is a vision that verges on the utopian. What's more, he must assume that House Democrats will be willing en masse or in large part to accept what will likely be rather grievous entitlement injuries. Unquestionably, some rough equilibrium of bipartisan agreement on averting the cliff will be required. Yet I, along with Reich, just can't see enough insufferable tea partiers shaking hands with enough socialist House devils.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Reich is wrong. But if we are, I won't be pleasantly surprised. I'll be pleasantly shocked.