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Good Deal

10:32 PM, Dec 10, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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The budget deal announced today is a good deal for conservatives and Republicans.

EDIT.v16-22.Feb21.Continetti.AP Photo.Ryan J Foley

AP / Ryan J. Foley

From the point of view of policy, the deal is a modest achievement—which is all that can be expected, given the unfortunate fact that Barack Obama is president and Democrats control the Senate. The trade-off in the deal of minor mandatory cuts for relatively small domestic discretionary increases is basically a wash. That leaves the defense increase, which, while insufficient, is an important step in the right direction. That alone would make the deal worthwhile. But the restoration of the normal appropriations process will also have a good effect, allowing Republicans to argue for reforms and articulate priorities in several domestic policy areas, rather than being the party of a mindless sequester that does little to cut spending, nothing to advance conservative ideas, and discourages efforts at reform.

From the point of view of politics, the budget deal is a significant achievement. It averts a meltdown scenario next month, in which it would have become clear that House Republicans don't in fact have the votes in their own conference to insist on the budget caps and sequester. So the real alternative to the deal isn't a more fiscally conservative outcome achieved by Republican unity; it's GOP political disarray and policy defeat. The deal saves Republicans from this fate, while allowing for a focus throughout the next year and in the 2014 election season on Obamacare and other Obama administration failures, rather than on intra-GOP wars and possible government shutdowns.

So the deal will be a small but significant step toward strengthening our national defense, and should help produce a Republican and conservative electoral victory in November. Critics can say that such a result is Mickey Mouse. I could retort that the critics are Goofy. But I won't. Instead, I'll just say that if this deal is Mickey Mouse, it's time to join the Mickey Mouse Fan Club. After all, it's made for you and me.

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