HAVE THE NATION’S LEADERS ever seemed smaller? It’s hard to remember when.
Unable to do what they all understood needed to be done, they created last year a congressional “supercommittee” that was meant to function as Congress had ceased to function. To guarantee its success, they established a fail-safe mechanism: a series of spending cuts that would take effect in event of failure that were so onerous that no patriot could contemplate their realization.
The supercommittee failed in the fall of 2011. Congress and President Obama essentially took the next year off to run for reelection. And then, as the fail-safe mechanism loomed, and scheduled tax increases threatened to send the nation reeling back into recession, the leaders failed to rise to the moment they had created for themselves. Instead of crafting a bargain that could set the nation on a steadier fiscal course, they jockeyed to ensure that their political opponents would bear the public ire when things went sour. That’s how small politicians behave.
We understand that the two parties have starkly different understandings of the role government should play in U.S. society. They’ve been fighting to defend those visions, and they will continue to do so. That’s as it should be.