The contrary view was expressed by Senator Kyl yesterday on my show:
HH: Well, is the reality that we have to have an election to clarify where we’re going, the President has to stand for a referendum on his stewardship, which I think is going to be very clear, and we have 23 Democrats and 11 Republicans up in the Senate. So why not just declare a truce and go home, but not let a supercommittee decide this for us, because I think we’re going to win this next election.
JK: Here’s how I would answer that. We’re going to lose the next election if we’re blamed for the state of the economy. Right now, Obama owns it. People have finally figured out it’s no longer George Bush’s fault. Obama has made it worse…much worse – unemployment, deficit, debt, spending, by any measure, Obama has made it worse. He owns it now. He has one chance to solve his electoral problem of owning the economy in a bad time, and ordinarily, presidential nominees don’t get reelected in a really bad economic situation. So what’s his solution? Have a credible case to blame Republicans for the state of the economy. How does he do that? He’s already said Republicans refuse to say yes to anything, it’s the Tea Party guys in the House who will not agree to extend the debt ceiling. So if we take any action which results in the market crashing, the European market going to heck, which then affects our market, the rating agencies downgrading our bonds, all the rest of it, which results in a worse economic condition, he then has the ability, he will claim, to blame Republicans for being equally responsible for the bad state of the economy. Now that wouldn’t be true, but at least it’s a case that he can make, and I don’t want to give him that case. That’s why the folks on our side who say let’s go ahead and default, have the election in 2012, I think aren’t counting on the fact that we’re going to lose the election in 2012 if we are also blamed for the state of our economy, which I think is still going to be bad by then.
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HH: You’ve sold me on that. Senator McConnell sold me on that last week, and I believe that that’s a very prudent…and prudence is required here. I just, what leaves me still chilled is that we’ll also lose the election in 2012 if we end up gutting Defense or raising taxes, and it wouldn’t take much under the supercommittee to effect that.
JK: Yeah, raising taxes, absolutely. I wish I could say that I was confident we would lose the elections if we reduced Defense spending. I’m afraid we have been asleep at the switch making the argument that we’ve got to protect Defense. When I look around, I mean, I go down to the floor and I give speeches saying we cannot cut Defense spending, and I look around and I don’t see anybody on the floor helping me, Democrat or Republican, and that is a huge concern. I absolutely agree with you, Hugh, and that is the area of most concern about this committee. But the answer to that is to make sure that Republicans get back to the Reagan position of peace through strength, and get off of this notion that Defense can take just as much of a hit as everyone else. Defense has already taken its hit. Secretary Gates, no less, who just left the office of secretary of Defense, said Defense has been cut enough already. That’s a direct quotation. It cannot afford any more cuts. But Republicans have got to stand up to that point of view.
HH: Last question, Senator Kyl, you sat through all those hours of negotiations with your old colleague, Joe Biden. I don’t think you’ll say anything bad about the Vice President. But I’m curious about President Obama and what was implied in our conversation, his willingness to risk a financial panic for political purposes.
HH: Do you think that’s real?
JK: The President of the United States is concerned first and foremost with getting this debt ceiling issue beyond the next election. He doesn’t want to have to face it during his reelection campaign. That’s his most important objective here, and that’s why he says he’ll veto any shorter term extension. What we’ve got to do is be responsible here and say we’re not going to extend it the full time unless we have equal amount of savings. The President hasn’t been willing to do that. So we’ll only extend it in an amount commensurate with the degree of savings that we’ve been able to achieve here. And that means we’re going to have to have a temporary extension, and then go at it a second time to do the rest of it. I understand the President doesn’t want to deal with this in his election campaign, but frankly, if the American people are focused on the need to reduce spending, that’s not a bad issue to have out there.
Conservatives can of course vote for the Boehner/McConnell/Reid option, but if the Speaker and Senator McConnell named the six Republicans they would appoint to the supercommittee before the vote takes palce, it would make it much easier to do.