Democrats appear to have the upper hand on the politics of the fiscal cliff, which might explain their brash pronouncements and mind-blowing conceptualization of "compromise." This morning I outlined three possible contingencies for Republicans, none of which is especially attractive. But is there a fourth way? The GOP's dilemma is a doozy. Their opponents, emboldened by the election, are pushing for counter-productive tax hikes on "the rich" -- a politically popular proposition at the moment -- while offering almost nothing meaningful in return. Meanwhile, Democrats' allies in the media have been crafting a 'Republicans-as-stubborn-obstructionists' narrative for years. To a large extent, they've been successful; Republicans are poised to bear the brunt of an irate public's blame if a fiscal cliff deal doesn't get cut. Voters either don't know or don't care about the details. As the story goes, Obama wants a "balanced" deal, and House Republicans are the only people standing in the way of averting economic disaster. Thus, Obama is holding the public relations high card. This is why he feels liberated to shoot for the moon by serving up absurd "deals;" as he sees it, if Republicans walk away, we all go over the cliff, and the media will beat Republicans to a pulp until they either (a) relent and give away the farm or (b) get crushed in 2014.
Short on good options, here's one play GOP leaders might be able to make to regain some of the high ground and throw the White House back on its heels: Embrace Simpson/Bowles. President Obama established a bipartisan debt commission with great fanfare in 2010. Its leaders were Alan Simpson, a former Republican Senator, and Erskine Bowles, President Clinton's former Chief of Staff. The panel was tasked with engineering a solution to right America's fiscal ship. In the end, they produced a set of recommendations that received the blessing of a majority of its members. The commission's blueprint drew a fair amount of criticism from conservatives, but was roundly blasted by liberals. Liberal malcontents like Paul Krugman torched the plan with noteworthy ferocity. The president shelved the recommendations, and they've been collecting dust ever since. What did the proposal actually look like?