Some of my friends among the congressional tea partiers are all hangdog about the debt-ceiling deal, seeing it as yet another lost opportunity to turn things around in this rotten borough known as Washington, D.C.
I understand the feeling, but they do themselves a disservice.
To see why, imagine a baseball hurled by the pitcher at 95 mph. That ball looks like an aspirin to the batter, who sees it for only a split second as he decides whether to swing his bat.
If the batter makes contact, something magnificent happens: The ball comes to a dead stop in an instant. For about 1/1000th of a second, it is motionless, a round sphere compressed almost flat. Then it explodes in the opposite direction at an even greater velocity.
Now picture the Washington Establishment as the pitcher on the mound, a master of deception able to throw everything; from a curve that drops away like a stone to that high, hard inside fastball, usually thrown at the rookie with the shaky legs at the plate. Plus, searing sliders and floating knucklers.
You can guess where the tea partiers are in this scenario. Obama’s demand for a “clean” debt-ceiling hike was the Establishment’s first pitch, followed by an assortment of slippery curves like the Gang of Six plan, a slider in the form of an $800 billion tax hike, and, finally, three Boehner-Reid-McConnell plans, which were all screaming fastballs.
Despite catcalls, taunts and worse from the home crowd and conflicting signals from their coaches, the tea partiers hung in there, got a full count, crowded the plate, and then — whack!
Sure enough, the ball stopped. For the first time in 50 years, federal spending next year will be lower than it is this year.
But now the ball is smashed flat as a pancake against that Louisville Slugger, hanging motionless, ready to spring back in the opposite direction. We won’t know where it will go until the batter completes the swing, which in this game takes months.
If the tea party swings under the ball, it will just be a pop-up into shallow left field. A late swing probably means a twisting liner to the first or second baseman, or maybe a soft fly to right field.
But, if that tea party bat’s sweet spot collides with the ball, it’s headed into orbit and ain’t nobody in the ball park gonna catch it!
In other words, what the tea party folks in Congress and out there in the heartland do in the weeks ahead will determine the direction of the ball that is the debt-ceiling deal. They’ve got to follow through.
For example, they should be making the case right now that, if House Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell want to show they really mean business, they will name tea partiers to the GOP slots on the Super Congress committee that sets the rest of the spending cuts.
Plus, they had better have their own plans for cutting spending, plans that go beyond the debt-ceiling deal’s parameters because that’s what the American people want.
Their pressure must be constant and continuous — otherwise, it’s just talk.
Surely the tea partiers have learned in the last six weeks that holding to principle is its own kind of leverage.
Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner and proprietor of Tapscott’s Copy Desk blog on washingtonexaminer.com.