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BROOKS: Politicians love that sequestration dance

On July 26, 2011, Jack Lew, then the White House budget director, went to Harry Reid's office for a budget strategy session. According to Bob Woodward's book, "The Price of Politics," Lew told the Senate majority leader that they had come up with a trigger idea to force a budget deal.

"What's the idea?" Reid asked.

"Sequestration," Lew responded.

Reid folded himself over with his head between his knees, as if he were going to throw up. Then he came upright and gaped at the ceiling.

"A couple of weeks ago," he exclaimed, "my staff said to me there is one more possible" enforcement method: sequestration.

Reid said he had told his staff at the time, "Get the hell out of here. That's insane. The White House surely will come up with a plan that will save the day. And you come to me with sequestration?"

Sequestration may have seemed insane back then. But politicians in both parties are secretly discovering that they love it now. It allows them to do the dance moves they enjoy the most.

Democrats get to do the P.C. Shimmy. Traditional presidents go through a normal set of motions: They identify a problem. They come up with a proposal to address the problem. They try to convince the country their proposal is the best.

Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy, the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn't address the problem (let's raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. Then he returns to Washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town.

Sequestration allows the White House to do this all over again. The president hasn't actually come up with a proposal to avert sequestration, let alone one that is politically plausible.


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