Faux conservative David Brooks of the New York Times used his Friday appearance with Mark Shields on the PBS NewsHour to bash Republicans over sequestration, comparing GOP tactics in dealing with spending to a trite circus act. Either Mr. Brooks forgot that sequestration was the president’s idea or doesn't care about facts getting in the way of cozying up to his liberal media buddies. Even liberal Democratic Sen. Max Baucus (Montana) admitted to that, and it’s explicitly mentioned that sequestration was the White House’s idea in Bob Woodward’s new book about the 2011 debt ceiling fiasco.
Shields piggybacked off of Brooks’ remarks, and said that the GOP’s fallback position is blaming the president, as if Obama is blameless in this dismal situation.
DAVID BROOKS: I certainly don't see any movement. As Mark [Shields] said, the polls show the Democrats will probably profit. The Republicans still feel trapped, though. They feel they gave up a big tax increase a couple of weeks ago, and they can't give up another. And that's sort of the asking price.
And so they feel they have got to show they can cut spending. I personally think the likely loser in this is the Republicans. They're less popular. They're associated with cut -- with government -- controlling government spending. And they have basically got a problem. I think they need to show the American people that we like some government programs. We don't like others.
They need to be able to distinguish between the two. Unfortunately, when they embrace this, they are embracing a piece of legislation that makes no distinction between good government and bad government. It just cuts randomly across the board, and, worse, doesn't even cut the things that actually create the debt problem, which is the entitlement programs.
So, to me, this is both a substantive and political serious problem for Republicans.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, are you saying they're going to have to move off of their position right now, no revenue increases?
DAVID BROOKS: Listen, the Republicans have been doing this since 1995, since the government shutdown.
They make a big show. They tell themselves, we're going to control spending. They do something sort of ham-fisted. And it -- when the public reaction, then they cave in and they come with concessions. So it's not like we have not been here before. I just wish they had a little smarter strategy.
And if I could give them one piece of advice is, don't worry about discretionary spending. When you are talking about cutting government, domestic discretionary spending, which is stuff for the National Institutes of Health and TSA, that's small potatoes. They're always focused on that, which is sort of the sympathetic popular stuff. Focus on the entitlement programs. But they are off doing the wrong thing, in my view.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You going to disagree with him?
MARK SHIELDS: I have to disagree with David. That's in the contract.
MARK SHIELDS: No, I think the Republicans, you can see where they are. They are very much behind the political eight ball. And they are now saying -- they're reduced to saying, well, the cuts aren't going to be that serious. They're really -- the Democrats are exaggerating them.
And even though they have warned about these cuts were terrible on defense, now they're not going to be that serious, and now it was also the president's idea to begin with. I mean, that seems to be their fallback position.
Also, on Friday’s broadcast of NPR’s All Things Considered, Brooks, who sadly returned, continued to slam Republicans for being “mindless anti-government fanatics,” and they have an opportunity – with sequestration – to show the country they’re smart about governing.
Finally, Brooks aptly noted, “it [sequestration] doesn't cut the things that are actually leading the long-term debt problem, like Medicare and Social Security.” It’s because Obama – and the Democrats – aren’t concerned with cutting those programs, and have signed pledges – during the first fiscal cliff debacle last December – to not back bills that would harm our welfare state.
BROOKS: So let me reject what the Republicans are doing. I have more ambivalent feelings about what the White House is doing. But the Republicans are doing the worst of all possible worlds. This was designed to be stupid; it magnificently achieves that.
The Democrats - or the Republicans are in a position politically where they have to show the country they're mindless anti-government fanatics, they can separate good government policies from bad government policies. This is a piece of mindless anti-government fanaticism, which doesn't separate the good from the bad. It just cuts.
In fact, it cuts in the worst of all possible ways. It doesn't cut the things that are actually leading the long-term debt problem, like Medicare and Social Security. It cuts the things people actually like, like National Institutes of Health and stuff like that. So, to me, it's a political disaster in the making for Republicans.