Perhaps the most witless remark I heard time and again last night from whole squadrons of media wise men was that if both sides strongly dislike the fiscal-cliff bill, it must be a pretty good one. This Beltway witticism-cum-sophisticated worldliness was inevitably followed by slight chuckles and knowing winks. The fact that the logic of their observation is philosophically idiotic--so any legislation roundly opposed is, merely by virtue of its opposition, good legislation?--didn't seem to faze them. And I can tell you why. The observation is cretinously related to that other tireless Beltway maxim: "Both sides are equally at fault for ... whatever."
Of course with the Senate's 89-8 endorsement of the white-flagged fiscal bill early this morning, that second observation received a revivifying shot in the arm. Now the bill goes to that lower body of cerebral renown and ethical fortitude, the GOP House, which regularly demonstrates that Nietzsche was indeed right and thus God is indeed dead.
Happily, though, the particular merits and distinct drawbacks of the fiscal bill are just as philosophically dead. They have already ascended into the foggy heavens of immovable advocacy or hatred of the bill: its lovers will note its upsides almost exclusively; its detractors will emphasize its downsides. Balanced, thoughtful assessments of the bill's actual guts were clinically dead even before the bill's ink had dried. The legislation now consists simply of a defensive pro-side and an aggressive con-side.
Strategically, however, over the next few months and coming years this bill will increasingly be regarded by policy and political mavens as a grievous blunder of the first order. In the long run it locks in lower tax rates for nearly all Americans, whose rates, once the economy recovers, will absolutely need to rise--an eventual urgency of fiscal sanity now rendered highly (politically) improbable by statute. In the short run? The president had Republicans on the ropes. They were dispirited, if not defeated. Now they're emboldened. Obama has reopened their vistas of political Lebensraum for them. God help us (assuming Nietzsche was in part wrong).