- - Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Life is full of mysteries. Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets? Why are there no B size batteries? Who would pay good money to see a Michael Moore movie? More mysterious still, why should Republicans be scared to call Barack Obama’s bluff?

Republicans hold the winning cards in the debt debate, but too often in their recent past, they have surrendered quicker than a French battalion. Wait, that’s not quite fair to the French. Too often, Republicans have surrendered more spectacularly than Steven Slater - you remember, the JetBlue flight attendant who set a new standard in quitting when he escaped down the plane’s emergency chute onto the tarmac, leaving behind a plane full of befuddled passengers.

Am I understating the amount of calcium in the GOP’s spine? Consider the continuing-resolution debacle from earlier this year. Republicans campaigned in the 2010 elections on $100 billion in spending cuts and had just delivered President Obama the largest midterm “shellacking” in 72 years. Resounding Republican victories spread like wildfire from statehouses to dogcatchers. The $100 billion spending-cut mandate was compromised almost immediately down to $60 billion before the final $38 billion, which, after the accounting gimmicks were discovered, amounted to a minuscule $350 million, and still the Republicans patted themselves on the back and declared victory. If anything, I may be overstating the GOP’s backbone. At least Steven Slater had the guts to tell everybody off before he caved.

For starters, let’s call our current predicament what it is: a debt crisis, not a debt-ceiling crisis. The Democrats have staked out the ridiculous ground that the credit cards are maxed out, so rather than curtailing our wild spending, we should solve the problem by applying for more credit cards. As Tea Party leader Christina Botteri says, “Ridiculous ideas deserve ridicule, not consideration, and certainly not the dignity of compromise.”

Democrats once again confirmed last week that they will never voluntarily surrender one ounce of their power, so we must do it for them. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and company successfully blocked the Republicans’ “Cut, Cap and Balance” Amendment, a Pyrrhic victory, if — and yes, I know this is a big if — Republicans will make them pay the price. 

Americans overwhelmingly support the GOP’s Cut, Cap and Balance bill - nearly two-thirds of all Americans do, and even 63 percent of Democrats. If the Democrats’ idea of winning the future is obstructing the will of two-thirds of Americans, let’s steel ourselves and meet them at the ballot box.

The overwhelming public demand for fiscal sanity is causing the ground to shake beneath the president’s feet. Remember when he used at least to talk tough? Before Sarah Palin single-handedly caused every crime in North America simply by placing a few surveyor cross hairs on an election map, the machismo-in-chief pounded his chest and bragged, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” Now he’s reduced to pleading to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, “Don’t call my bluff, Eric.” (Note to the president: When bluffing, it’s usually best to not announce that you’re bluffing.)

It’s no wonder that he’s lost his stride. Mr. Obama’s economic credibility lies in tatters alongside his promises that his so-called “stimulus” would keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent, that his “cash for clunkers” program would revive the auto industry and that his mortgage bailout would stave off foreclosures. According to Rasmussen, just 21 percent believe America is on the right track. The president’s anemic approval rating gasps for breath in the mid-40s and has lost six points in the Real Clear Politics average since the debt debate began. Mr. Obama trails a generic Republican in head-to-head polling, and now, for the first time, the president has fallen behind potential Republican rival Mitt Romney. Even long-shot Republican contender Ron Paul is within four points.

The president has nothing to offer but fear itself. His predictions du jour of economic Armageddon sound eerily similar to his dubious 2009 claims that led to his failed stimulus package. So desperate is the president that he has issued a thinly veiled threat to cut off Social Security benefits for grandma if he doesn’t get his way. Let him try. It’s time to call his bluff.

What in the world are the Republicans scared of? If they can’t muster the courage for this fight, when will they ever? Of course, the Obama cheerleader media will go into hyperdrive GOP attack mode. That’s a given. Brace for it. But it hasn’t helped them so far. In fact, the public opinion trends are moving in the Republicans’ favor.

Squishy Republicans should forget the weak-kneed “Gang of Six” $3 trillion-dollar tax-hike compromise and, worse still, Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s outright surrender, and instead join the “Gang of 234” that passed the Cut, Cap and Balance Act in the House. Start running ads today in the vulnerable Democratic senators’ home states to remind voters just which politicians have claimed previously to support the balanced budget but are obstructing it.

If the Democrats want to run in 2012 as the party that is willing to hold grandma hostage in their desperate determination to block a balanced budget, then let them. The only mystery would be why Republicans should fear it.

Dr. Milton R. Wolf is a board-certified diagnostic radiologist and cousin of President Obama. He blogs at MiltonWolf.com.