After Holding Gun to the Economy's Head, Kyl Doesn't Like Holding Gun To Military's Head

Sen. Jon Kyl isn't happy with the potential cuts to the defense budget if the super-committee can't come to an agreement:

"Can you imagine anything more irresponsible than for the commander in chief of the military to promote, not just promote, but insist on the knowing destruction of the U.S. military as a means to threaten Congress?" Kyl asked in a speech on the Senate floor shortly before he voted for the legislation.

Although he backed the bill, Kyl said it came close to violating the oath of office for lawmakers as well as the president's responsibilities as commander in chief.

"We will need to work very hard to restore spending necessary for our national security and commit to reject the threat of Armageddon inserted into this bill by the White House," Kyl said.

Actually, we can imagine something more irresponsible than the scenario Kyl is describing: A Republican Party that insists on the knowing destruction of the global economy as a means to threaten the president. In case you didn't notice, Sen. Kyl, that's what your party just did.

Guess what: If you want to keep spending all that money on the military, you just might have to raise taxes to do it. That's why the trigger is in there: Because it has to be something that will be painful to both sides in order to create an incentive for both sides to honestly bargain with one another. You can't just keep targeting widows and orphans so the rich can keep their taxes low, Senator.

Ross Douthat explores Kyl's problem in today's New York Times:

This clarifies something that’s been increasingly obvious for a while: The interests of right-wing tax cutters and right-wing defense hawks do not necessarily align with one another, and they will continue to diverge as we go deeper into the looming age of austerity. There is simply no scenario in which the United States will close its yawning deficits exclusively with cuts to popular social programs: One can imagine such a world only by imagining the Democratic Party and all its various constituencies out of existence entirely. Conservatives will be free to argue that both tax hikes and defense cuts should be off limits, but in political reality at least one of the two will have to give. (It’s true, as John Podhoretz suggests, that even many Democratic politicians don’t really want to raise taxes or cut defense spending — but then again many Republican politicians don’t really want to cut Medicare or Social Security! Yet the numbers are the numbers …)

At the moment, the hawks are at a clear disadvantage. From Rand Paul to Grover Norquist, there’s a broad constituency within the conservative movement for shrinking the national security state, either as a compromise necessary to keep domestic spending low or as an end unto itself. But there’s no mirror-image constituency among hawks for raising tax revenue for the sake of maintaining the Pax Americana.