Extravagant promises and bluster are the stuff of campaign rhetoric, but the House Republicans' "Pledge to America" goes far beyond the norm.
Its breathless mimicry of the Declaration of Independence - the "governed do not consent," it declares, while vowing to rein in "an arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites" - would be ludicrous, if these were not destructively polarized times.
The best way to understand the pledge is as a bid to co-opt the Tea Party by a Republican leadership that wants to sound insurrectionist but is the same old Washington elite. These are the folks who slashed taxes on the rich, turned a surplus into a crushing deficit, and helped unleash the financial crisis that has thrown millions of Americans out of their jobs and their homes.
So eager was the Times to trash the campaign platform, it actually attacked it (and making a valid point) from a small-government perspective:
Cutting the deficit will also require curbs on the government's biggest and most popular entitlement programs - Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, collectively 40 percent of the budget. Ditto military spending, another 20 percent. Yet Republicans pledge to shield seniors, veterans and the troops from spending cuts.
Indeed, there are many critics on the right who think the package is weak tea. But from the Times perspective, it's a dangerously radical document.
The drive for permanent high-end tax cuts is profligate; there is no other word for it. The nation cannot afford it. We are fighting a war in Afghanistan and only now winding down the war in Iraq. The baby boom generation is about to retire. To keep competing, the country needs enormous investment in infrastructure, energy alternatives, education and basic research.
But we could afford Obama care, right?
Americans are right to be worried and even angry about the bad economy. And they are right to demand that Washington do a lot more to revive employment now and start to reduce the deficit soon. But these are hard problems built up over eight years of mainly Republican leadership. The pledge takes the country backward - a place no one should want to go.