KNIGHT: Capital dysfunction

When Democrats throw a tantrum, Republicans cower in the corner

Baseball and football fans know that when coaches chew out umpires and referees, there’s little chance that the questionable call will be overturned — especially in baseball. In many cases, though, that’s not the intent. The idea is to intimidate the umpire into giving them a better call the next time around.

I thought about that in October when the Democrats and media fomented massive outrage over the two-week, partial government shutdown. The crocodile tears were not really shed over the government employees, who were made whole in very short order after a taxpayer-funded furlough. It was about the next round, which just played out last week in budget negotiations.

The shell-shocked, shutdown-wary House Republicans scurried mightily to approve a budget deal last Thursday. The bill concocted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, increases federal spending, undoes part of the hard-earned sequestration cuts, and raises taxes on airline security and thus on airline passengers. What’s not to like?

The rationale for this sorry deal is that “the Republican brand” got burned badly in the shutdown, so why risk blame for another one? By caving early, and for less than $100 billion in new spending, which is chump change in Washington, the GOP can instead put the horrors of Obamacare back on the front burner right through 2014.

They are counting on the Tea Party and other fiscal conservatives to get over it quickly and focus on their common foe. Republican strategists seem far more easily frightened by bad reactions from liberals than from the people who delivered them a sweeping, historic electoral victory in 2010, and who could do so again — unless they tune out in disgust.

Maybe the strategists are right, though. In a toxic media environment where even good sound bites are ignored or twisted into nonsense, the Ryan-Murray deal could be the best of bad options.

That’s a shame, because the GOP is holding powerful cards, starting with public outrage over Obamacare and the lies that facilitated it. There is also the disturbing and widening Benghazi scandal, and a growing list of economic victims of the White House’s war on the private sector, including coal miners and millions of others who have been out of work for years.

Then there is Mr. Obama’s odd behavior at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. The “selfie” photo he took with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is right up there with Bill Clinton getting caught laughing at funeral services for plane crash victim Commerce Secretary Ron Brown in 1996 and quickly working up a tear when he realized he was on camera. The difference is that Mr. Obama apparently didn’t feel the necessity of faking a somber countenance.

There is also the dangerously bad nuclear deal with Iran, whose uranium-enrichment program will go unimpeded in any serious way in return for North Korea-like promises to Secretary of State John F. Kerry not to make nuclear weapons and to buy lots of Heinz ketchup. Do you feel safer?

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is stacking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit with left-wing appointees to ensure that this powerful lower court will never pose a serious threat to his constitutional overreaches.

He also pushed through the Senate the appointment of Rep. Mel “Easy Money” Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Mr. Watt wants to return us to the government-triggered, “come-one, come-all” mortgage scheme that caused the greatest financial collapse since the Great Depression.

Finally, Mr. Obama is ramming a radical, anti-Christian social agenda down America’s throat, especially in the military, with near-zero Republican opposition.

Polls rise and fall, and Mr. Obama’s numbers are dismal right now. Congress’ are even worse. Time will tell if the Republican strategy of surrendering any immediate hope of cutting federal spending and ignoring Mr. Obama’s bizarre social activism will yield long-term political benefits for the GOP, such as capturing the Senate and cementing their House majority next year en route to 2016.

Democrats are on the offensive, seemingly unbothered by possible repercussions at the ballot box.

The question is, will the Republicans get off the psychiatrists’ couches soon enough to head off further damage to our formerly self-governing republic?

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