Did John Boehner walk into a trap?

President Obama tried to lay one for the man who may be speaker.

Obama has said that he is willing to keep the Bush tax cuts for the middle class but not on “the wealthiest Americans.” Obviously, the president was hoping that Boehner would stand firm that it’s all or nothing-all the tax cuts must be extended or Republicans will oppose any cuts. The GOP could then be portrayed as friends of the rich, class warfare seemingly being the White House’s only hope.

But here’s the rub:  While the so-called middle class tax cuts will allow most Americans to keep a bit more of their earnings, they won’t do as much to stimulate the economy. It is the wealthiest Americans who hire people, who create jobs. Extending the other cuts won’t do much to lower unemployment and get us out of the doldrums.

Rep. Boehner has said, to the chagrin of some, that he will vote to extend any tax cuts, including the middle-class cuts, even if the other cuts aren’t preserved. But he will work to extend all the cuts. I don’t think he walked into a trap: He can’t hold the middle class cuts hostage to the cuts for the better off,  even if it is the ones on the wealthiest that ultimately will make a difference for all of us.  

Having made that concession, he is in a better position to fight hard for extending the upper income cuts, arguing that these are the cuts that will create jobs.   

Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard, however, seems to think that the Republicans should stand firm for all cuts:

The good news is that the political case for extending current tax rates is as solid as the economic case. Campaigning for the extension would put Republicans on the offensive and cleave the Democrats in two. It would demonstrate to the public that a center-right coalition has a reasonable short-term agenda. Perhaps most important, it would open a window for creative thinking about fundamental tax reform, about designing a tax code that levies the lowest possible rate across the largest possible base.

Conservatives and Republicans: Roll up your sleeves.Grit your teeth. The great tax rumble of 2010 is about to start. It’s a fight you can win.

I say: Yes, Roll up your sleeves and grit your teeth for that battle. But why can’t this battle be fought even if the the GOP has agreed to the middle-class tax cuts? Read Continetti’s piece-it’s very good on why the White House is so doctrinaire on the upper-bracket cuts. Although I am usually pretty hardcore on any tax issue, I’m just arguing that we don’t have to be doctrinaire back this time. We can win.