When a circular firing squad has a better target

WHEN A CIRCULAR FIRING SQUAD HAS A BETTER TARGET…. So, let me get this straight. The White House is angry with congressional Dems and an under-appreciative base; congressional Dems are angry with the White House; and the base is angry with everyone.

It’s presumptuous, but might I recommend a Democratic cease-fire?

In candor, I was just writing up an item about who’s right, and to what extent, in the argument between Dem leaders on the Hill and the White House over who’s to blame in the mess over taxes. Given all the evidence, I think the criticism of President Obama on this is excessive and misplaced, and that congressional Dems were badly mistaken, and totally abandoned any sense of leverage, when they chose not to act before the midterms. They inadvertently created the conditions that led to the deal they dislike.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I don’t think anyone really wants to read that post anyway. Covering Democrats attacking Democrats, ad nauseum, is easy, but it’s also getting tiresome. Perhaps the conversation needs a detour.

I noticed Chris Hayes said something interesting this morning (translated from Twittereese): “For what it’s worth, I have a lot more rage at the GOP for how the tax debate played out than the White House. Republicans really did use the unemployed as hostages. It’s disgusting.”

That’s both right and important. I don’t want to speak for Chris, but his sentiment is straightforward: the tax agreement is hardly ideal, and Dems didn’t handle it well, but the real frustration is with Republicans.

John Cole, riffing off this morning’s Plan B post, had some related thoughts on the subject:

I simply cannot express how much it infuriates me that [Republicans] are holding all this important legislation hostage for tax cuts for the super-rich. Despite the hissy fit about the small portion of Obama’s presser yesterday in which he chided his critics … most of his presser was about the Republican perfidy and how he has to make the best out of this bullshit the Republicans are causing. Let’s always remember who the problem is here.

I know how the game works. A party’s base is expected to make demands of party leaders, urging them, as strongly and as often as possible, not to stray from principles and ideals. When those leaders do feel the need to make concessions, it’s the base’s job to demand better. That’s why the base exists. If a party’s activists went around saying, “We’re fine with compromise, because we understand the importance of incremental progress,” they’d quickly lose all influence.

Having said that, Republicans aren’t just being wildly irresponsible, they’re opening themselves up to some potentially devastating criticism. We’re talking about a party that is literally refusing to do anything other than fight tooth and nail to protect unpopular tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, at the expense of middle-class families. These cuts, as President Obama put it yesterday, represent the GOP’s “holy grail,” prioritized above all — so much so that they’ve become “hostage takers,” a provocative line that happens to be true.

It is, in other words, a unique opportunity to attack the Republican brand in ways that could weaken the party in advance of the next Congress.

But Dems aren’t making that attack, because they’re busy going after one another.