Among Muhammad Ali's many formidable weapons in the ring was his famous "rope-a-dope" in which he went into a defensive crouch and allowed his opponent to throw punch after punch, round after round. Sooner or later, the opponent would tire, make a mistake and Ali would pounce, often landing a knockout punch. That's the strategy President Obama and his congressional Democratic allies are using against House Speaker John Boehner and the Republican majority in the lower chamber. For his part, Obama passively professes his desire "to work with Republicans on responsible spending cuts." That prompts GOPers to produce multiple compromise proposals in the hope of finding one Obama will support, even as they wear themselves out promising not to shut down the government as they did in 1995.
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders are attacking GOP spending cuts as "mean-spirited, reckless and irresponsible," confident that most journalists will simply repeat their charges without lifting a finger to test their validity. Then the Democrats, in a gesture of faux bipartisanship, offer to support another stopgap continuing resolution to keep the government open for a few more weeks. That leaves exasperated and increasingly desperate Republicans punching away at spending cuts. Eventually, Rope-a-Dope Democrats figure, exhausted Republicans will settle for minimal budget reductions and pray that voters won't notice that 99 percent of the Democrats' spending was left untouched.
The problem is that voters will notice, and they will hold Republicans accountable in the next election. Voters worry most about uncontrolled federal spending, deficits and debt that will rob their children and grandchildren of the opportunity to live the American dream. They elected a House Republican majority to put the dream back on track. By standing firm now on spending cuts, Republicans will frame the 2012 election as a choice between electing a Republican president and congressional majority that will clean up the mess in Washington versus keeping Democrats in power who will continue mortgaging our children's futures.
As Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said before Tuesday's House vote on the latest continuing resolution, "It's time to take a stand for taxpayers and future generations. Things don't change in Washington, D.C., until they have to. It will not be possible to put our fiscal house in order without a fight. By giving liberals in the Senate another three weeks of negotiations, we will only delay a confrontation that must come. I say, 'Let it come now. It's time to take a stand.' ... House Republicans need to tell liberals in the Senate, 'This far and no further.' Nobody wants a government shutdown, but unless we take a stand, we will shut down the future for our children and grandchildren."