As I keep saying, the Republicans have a serious problem trying to please the Tea Partiers and still look relatively sane to everyone else. During the GOP debate on Friday night, they showed just how far they’re willing to drive the crazy train when Bret Baier asked this question:
“I’m going to ask a question to everyone here on the stage. Say you had a deal, a real spending cuts deal, 10-to-1, as Byron said, spending cuts to tax increases…. Who on this stage would walk away from that deal? Can you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising taxes, you’d walk away on the 10-to-1 deal?”
Every single one of them raised their hand. Not a single dissenter. Do they not realize how that’s going to play with independents and sane Republicans? The polls recently have shown definitively that the public wants to bring the debt down through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, running in the high 60 and even 70s in some of the polls. And the Republicans just showed that they wouldn’t even support a 10-1 mix.
This is precisely the problem with trying to pander to fanatics. You can’t ever be pure enough for them. Even the slightest deviation is heresy and is immediately punished. And every one of those candidates knows that they have no chance of winning the Republican primary without winning over the Tea Party. Thus, their unanimous answers to that question.
Steve Benen nails it:
As a policy matter, if a 10-to-1 cuts-to-revenue ratio is considered far too liberal for the Republican Party in the 21st century, we can say with certainty the GOP is obviously not serious about debt reduction. We can also say with certainty Republican leaders haven’t the foggiest idea how to shape a coherent approach to fiscal sanity. But last night wasn’t about coherence or sanity; it was about impressing unhinged activists whose connection to reality is tenuous at best.
Regardless, this moment is a keeper. Anyone wanting to know why compromise has been deemed impossible in 2011 need look no further than these eight clowns raising their hand to reject a debt-reduction deal that’s overwhelmingly tilted in their favor.
To show just how extreme that reaction was, it even drew a furious reaction from Kevin Williamson at the National Review:
very candidate said he would oppose a cuts-taxes plan that contained a 10:1 ratio of cuts to taxes. Chalk one up to the crazies. If Congress wanted to get rid of tax exemptions and exclusions amounting to $100 billion in new taxes in exchange for $1 trillion in cuts, and Republicans turned the deal down, I would personally drive down to Washington and pelt them with rotten vegetables, and possibly with rocks. $100 billion in new taxes plus $1 trillion in cuts balances the budget in 2012.
You know who won the Bachmann-Pawlenty-Romney Tenth Amendment debate? Rick Perry.
Except that Perry would almost certainly have given the same answer. This is the problem with having a primary that will be determined by the most insane elements of your party — every sane person, including their fellow Republicans, flees from the crazy rhetoric.