The debt ceiling fight has now reached a point typical of many dramas of this kind, when participants and commentators alike start to lose sight of the forest for the trees. That's inevitable. Trees are what Congress and pundits do for a living, and in any case which trees are left standing just where is not unimportant. So lots of underpaid congressional staffers will be spending long nights working on tree-trimming, tree-maintenance and even tree-beautification, and lots of underpaid journalists will be covering their efforts. And we at THE WEEEKLY STANDARD will continue to offer our play-by-play commentary as well.
But let's not forget the forest--which seems to me to have three main features. First, the best thing Republicans can do for their own future—and, we would argue, the nation's—is to hold the line on taxes, for reasons Jay Cost has ably explained. Second, the best thing Republicans can do for their own future—and the nation's—is emphasize that government is much too big, and that Obama has made a bad situation much, much worse. So it's important that most Republicans mostly oppose debt ceiling increases, and that the GOP end up having been the party that fought to limit the debt increase, tried to condition it with budgetary reforms and accompany it with spending cuts, and that ends up mostly opposing and voting against it. This will help remind Americans that Republicans have opposed Obama's debt-increasing legislation, and that they will, when in power, reduce the size and burden of government, and the debt burden, as much as possible. And finally, the best thing Republicans can do for their own future—and the nation's—is to remind one and all that fundamental solutions to our budgetary and economic problems require that Obama be defeated in 2012; the outcome of the debt ceiling fight needs to allow the GOP to continue to make this case to the public for the next year and a half.
Getting from here to there is complicated, and solving the tactical puzzles, navigating among the maze of trees, is a real challenge. One shouldn't minimize the tactical difficulties and dangers facing the GOP leadership. But I think there are actually several paths to a reasonably successful outcome, and that Republicans are likely to end up in fine shape—if they keep in mind that the greatest danger would be losing sight of the forest for the trees, and that our path out of the forest of debt and unemployment is No More Taxes, No More Debt (well, as little more debt as is possible), and No More Obama.