The Cliffhanger, Jan. 22

Ever since the language of the ???fiscal cliff??? was appropriated to describe the political battle over a tax increase, it???s become increasingly clear that every issue is a ???cliff??? now.  Here are today???s snapshots from the edge???

** Republicans retreat from the true fiscal cliff: The hot new strategy announced by Republicans for dealing with the debt ceiling is to ignore it for a while, in the hope that Democrats might finally glance up and notice it.  The Democrats will then see Republicans industriously hammering out 10-year balanced budget plans, feel a great surge of shame at their past irresponsibility, and change their big-spending ways at last.  The idea is to “suspend” the debt ceiling until the middle of May, while implementing what amounts to a temporary paycheck freeze if the Senate doesn’t end its four years of non-budgeting.

This plan was formulated before President Obama dropped an inaugural speech packed with demands that would cost at least as much as the astonishing amount he spent during his first term, and of course most if it would be borrowed money, because the time is not quite ripe for handing the Sainted Middle Class its long-deferred Big Government tax bill.  The media usually wails in anguish when it thinks there isn’t enough “bipartisanship” in Washington, but on Inauguration Day you couldn’t have found a particle of bipartisanship in the entire Democrat Party with an electron microscope.  The Republicans had better be ready to bring their balanced budget plan to the American people with some killer messaging, and if they’re relocating the “hill to die on” to mid-May, they had best be ready to dig in on that hill.  A dispirited base will demand nothing less.  In the short term, they’re fighting for their political survival; in the long term, America’s.

Daniel Horowitz at RedState doesn’t see a lot of fighting spirit in the GOP these days:

By my count, there have been at least seven budget/debt battles over the past two years in which Republicans have either deferred, punted, or caved.  While they offer excuses for shirking from the battle at hand, they always emphatically promise to fight the next one.  Look, maybe Boehner told the conservatives in the House something that gave them the impression he had a complete epiphany.  Maybe they really will formulate a budget that will balance in 10 years.  But even if they do, does anyone really believe they will stand behind it as a demand for a long-term debt limit increase as the clock winds down to midnight May 18?

Someone has asked the same question in every other European-style socialist basket case, as the death spiral picked up speed.  The early part of the death spiral is lots of fun, as you go whizzing down the slide, past giant clown faces singing happy songs about the joys of “collective action” and living at the expense of others.  Then it gets dark all of a sudden, the slide gets steeper, and you realize you passed the last emergency exit a long time ago.

** Interfering with the paychecks of Congress is evidently unconstitutional: Unfortunately for the “no budget, no pay” plan advanced by House Republicans, it has been criticized as unconstitutional, and not just by the sort of Democrat who only brings up the Constitution when someone wants to interfere with his spending plans.  Even House Oversight Committee chair Darrel Issa (R-CA) said so, although he’s all in favor of linking a debt ceiling increase to the passage of what we laughingly called a “budget,” back when we had them.

Or maybe “no budget, no pay” is Constitutional, because the name is misleading – it’s only delaying the paychecks of representatives until they cough up a budget, not cutting their pay.  “While the 27th Amendment prohibits Congress from varying its own pay within a given Congress, as I noted in my interview it can certainly withhold pay,” Issa explained.  Unlike certain other amendments, the 27th Amendment apparently means what it says.

** Joe Biden sticks up for good old-fashioned vote buying: While President Obama was dispensing tons of recycled soaring rhetoric at his inaugural, his Vice-President has been more bluntly celebrating the joys of buying votes with other peoples’ money.  At the Latino Inaugural Concert on Sunday night, Biden thanked the attendees and the demographic they represented for helping Obama retain his office, and declared, “America owes Latinos… this is your moment!”  As William Bigelow at Breitbart News noted, Biden did not specify exactly what America “owes” Latinos, but I’m sure the American taxpayer groaning under twenty grand in fresh Obama debt won’t mind paying up.

** Climate change update: It’s incredibly cold in Washington today, with highs in the 20s and wind that cuts deep into the soul, like the icy battle axe of a frost giant.  But don’t worry, because in his inaugural address President Obama vowed to drive Washington even further into penury to battle the scourge of “climate change,” so this ought to be the last bitterly cold winter or broiling hot summer you have to endure.  We all know how seriously this President takes his promises.

** Al-Qaeda officially no longer “on the run”: President Obama’s glorious rout of al-Qaeda has come to a screeching halt, as outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters at the inauguration that the Algerian hostage horror “tells us al-Qaeda is committed to creating terror wherever they are, and we’ve got to fight back.”  He also described the terrorist network as a “cancer” that “metastasized” in various safe havens.  It’s a pity that wasn’t planned for when Obama waged his unilateral war in Libya, and created an assortment of new safe havens for al-Cancer to metastasize in, but fortunately the Obama foreign policy team is accustomed to working in a constant state of surprise, and at least the Left was finally given a unilateral war it could celebrate.

** Israeli elections: Israel holds its elections on Tuesday.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to retain his office, but lose some strength from his governing coalition, as both the Israeli Left and Right nibble away at the edges.   Israel has a lot of active political parties, which at least spares the Israeli citizen from listening to phony media calls for “bipartisanship” when the wrong one is in power.

** Prince Harry admits to killing some Taliban in Afghanistan: The United Kingdom welcomed 28-year-old Prince Harry back from Afghanistan, and is now grappling with the unpleasant reality that he seems to have killed some Taliban while he was over there.  The Prince himself is refreshingly clear-headed about the whole affair.  “If there’s people trying to do bad stuff, then we’ll take them out of the game,” he explained, adding that in the military, “we have to take a life to save a life.”

He’s an Apache helicopter gunner, and by all accounts a damned good one – a skill he says he honed through hours of playing blood-soaked ultra-violent video games, such as FIFA Soccer.  Well, maybe that one’s not so violent, if the action remains entirely on the field.

The Prince also apologized for getting photographed in a nude frolic with a squadron of girls in Las Vegas, which he described as “a classic example of me probably being too much Army, and not enough Prince.”

** Phil Mickelson promises to meekly submit to higher taxes: Just days after saying that he might move out of California, or give up pro golf altogether, to escape from the clutches of high taxation, a chastened Phil Mickelson “apologized to anyone he may have upset or insulted,” and said his finances and taxes are “a personal matter and I should not have made my opinions on them public.”  It’s right there in the First Amendment, people.  You’re not allowed to complain about high taxes, or speculate in public about your strategy for avoiding them.

According to Fox News, “Mickelson also said he is currently working on learning about the new tax laws that have raised his rate, and is relying on the advice of experts to make decisions for the future.”  No word on whether he will also be required to attend sensitivity classes, so he can learn how to avoid offending tax-and-spend politicians in the future.