Halperin’s deeply flawed advice

HALPERIN’S DEEPLY FLAWED ADVICE…. Mark Halperin latest item in Time starts off pretty well. He notes that White House officials, including President Obama, “have betrayed visible annoyance” at the Republican response to their latest tax proposals, including “tax incentives for companies to make capital expenditures and do more R&D.”

Halperin doesn’t blame the president and his team for being annoyed, since Obama “is calling for some of the same provisions that the GOP and its business-lobby allies have touted for years.” Halperin even acknowledges that Republicans are only fighting the administration’s ideas because they want to deny the president a pre-election victory — putting political considerations ahead of the economy.

So, what’s the problem? Halperin’s suggestion to Obama about the road ahead.

What most ails the economy right now is the uncertainty in the business sector about what Washington will do next. Wariness and doubt inhibit investment and hiring. The President’s new proposals address those obstacles head-on. But sooner or later the President is going to need Republican votes and the backing of business to get this and other measures passed. Treating his opponents as unprincipled chuckleheads makes it less likely that Obama will get what he wants and more likely that voters will be turned off by contemptuous rhetoric.

That sort of gambit is likely to prove unhelpful for either the long-term good of the economy or the President.

Two things. First, uncertainty is not what ails the economy most right now. Republicans say this every day, and they’re wrong.

Second, Halperin’s advice is badly flawed. Halperin concedes Republicans are opposing ideas they should support, concedes Republicans aren’t approaching the debate in good faith, and concedes that their position is entirely unprincipled. But he nevertheless concludes that the president shouldn’t show any public frustration about this — or, heaven forbid, actually call out the GOP for their indefensible antics — because it might hurt Republicans’ feelings, making bipartisan cooperation less likely.

This is pretty astounding for a media figure who helps dictate the conventional wisdom — Republicans are misbehaving, but if Obama acknowledges their misbehavior, Republicans are likely to keep misbehaving.

How, then, does Halperin suggest the president, who’s already prepared to endorse policies the GOP says they want, move the policy forward? Send Republicans flowers? Invite them to the movies? Praise them for their obstinacy? Keep repeating “thank you, sir, may I have another” until Republicans are prepared to let the political system function?

As for Halperin’s concern about “contemptuous rhetoric,” I think Republicans characterizing the president as an illegitimate, authoritarian Communist with Hitler-like tendencies and no birth certificate have cornered the market on this front.