Since the sequester hasn't forced a deficit-cutting deal, some pundits, like The Washington Post's editorial page, David Brooks, and most spectacularly Bob Woodward, are putting their faith in mind control magic to get the centrist deal they want.
Here are Bob Woodward's complaints with President Obama's handling of the sequester: Obama is "moving the goal posts" by asking for tax revenue in a deal to replace the sequester, Obama has not forced Republicans to accept those moved goal posts, and Obama has not ripped up the goal posts and just do whatever he wants regardless of the law. Because there are no tax increases in the sequester, Woodward wrote in The Washington Post, "when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts." But Woodward wants them moved. He wants tax reform in a sequester prevention plan, and thinks it would be easy to get, telling Politico, "Sit down and work through this... I can see exactly how you come up with a deal that would dispose of lots of things." (He also hinted to CNN there might be a third way: "It is baffling that they can't sit down and work out something that really would be sensible. You don't have - it doesn't have to be cuts or tax increases or entitlement reform.") And, since that hasn't worked yet, Woodward suggests pretending it doesn't exist. Because of the sequester, the Pentagon has delayed sending an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. "And so we now have the president going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement. 'I can't do what I need to do to protect the country.' That's a kind of madness that I haven't seen in a long time." Idaho Republican Rep. Raúl Labrador commended Woodward on calling for Obama to defy this piece of paper.
This is magical thinking, as many people have noted, because the piece of paper in question is the law, which Obama has sworn to uphold. But as The Atlantic's Molly Ball points out, even a magical graveyard ritual did not convince Republicans to accept tax cuts. The real people to blame for the sequester are the guys on the super committee, Ball argues, which was tasked with coming up with a $1.2 trillion deficit-cutting deal to stop the sequester from happening. It failed. But they tried really hard! Supercommitteemen John Kerry and Rob Portman even went on bike rides together. Exercise didn't help, and neither did magic. As Politico reported in 2011 on this a crossover episode between The West Wing and The X-Files:
In the thick of the negotiations, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, too, recalled the days when deal makers could bridge the partisan divide. He visited Ted Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery with former Sen. Chris Dodd. Dodd poured some whiskey on Kennedy’s grave while Reid recited a prayer...
Kennedy's spirit did not compel Republicans to change their minds on taxes, or Democrats to change their minds on accepting an all-spending cuts deal. That is because Kennedy's spirit does not vote in any key congressional districts. The sequester, of course, was conceived of as a legal way to force both Republicans and Democrats to come to a budget cutting agreement -- with cuts to entitlements and more tax revenue -- by being so horrible that both sides would be desperate for a deal. It hasn't worked out that way. As NBC News' First Read writes, Republicans are in a tough spot right now. Deal-makers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn are both up for reelection next year, and their states have both recently voted in very conservative junior senators. The Pentagon cuts were not as scary to Republicans as the White House assumed they would be, and the thought of raising taxes is scarier. Jedi mind tricks might be best directed towards the voters of several conservative House districts, like, say, by releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants and warning more will able to slip in the country unless the sequester is stopped.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.