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The Circular Firing Squad

A GOP specialty.

Jan 23, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 18 • By FRED BARNES
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Earlier, Republicans learned the hard way that nothing good comes from negotiating on taxes and spending with Obama or Democrats. Talks last summer were manipulated by the president so he’d be remembered for proposing a “grand bargain” to tame the deficit and House Speaker John Boehner for walking out.

The supercommittee talks were no better. In his September speech to Congress, Obama cast Republicans as obstructionists and thus foils in his reelection campaign. Given this, Democrats weren’t about to agree with Republicans on $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. Any accommodation with Republicans would undermine Obama. Republicans were left to deal with the alternative of a mandatory $600 billion cut in defense spending.

Obama’s strategy now “appears to consist of creating populist confrontations with Congress and then complaining that Washington is broken because Republicans won’t let the president have his way,” writes Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. That won’t help Obama, though, since it suggests that, even with the Senate in Democratic hands, he can’t get things done.

But it doesn’t have to help so long as it hurts Republicans. Obama’s strategy is like the old joke about two hikers confronted by an angry bear. “We’d better run for it,” one says. “Don’t you know you can’t outrun a bear?” the other says. “I don’t have to outrun the bear,” the first hiker says. “I only have to outrun you.”

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

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