“Don’t Call My Bluff”

Unless I see a transcript, I refuse to believe that Barack Obama said that to Eric Cantor.

Not because it sounds testy; I think we’re going to see a lot of Obama’s testy side between now and what I expect to be a Republican capitulation that will both leave the GOP formed in a circular firing squad and demonstrate to any voter who’s paying attention the utter fraudulence of the Republican pretense to care about fiscal responsibility.

No, I don’t believe he said that because it would have reflected an ignorance of poker. If you’re bluffing, of course your opponent should call, and so of course you’d never say “Don’t call my bluff.” You might say, “Think I’m bluffing? Go ahead: call and see.”

Or you might say – more relevant to the President’s current position – “You’re bluffing. I call.”

The Republican leadership has been four-flushing from the git-go. (Some of the Tea Party Caucus types are just living in an alternate reality.) Not only are Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell unwilling to force the government into defaulting on its obligations, they’re also unwilling to take the heat for actual cuts in named programs. Railing against “spending” in the abstract is just good clean fun, but of course they don’t want to have to explain to 65-year-olds that they have to wait two more years to get Medicare.

That was the point of the Obama move that has Jonathan so upset: it forced the GOP to back away publicly from something the voters hate. They were bluffing. He called. Now he’s going to rake in the chips.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.