Well, this is modern Washington—a pathetic debate over whether to extend the payroll tax holiday for two months or twelve months.

Speaking only for myself, I am against the extension because it is a holiday, not a cut, and because it is supposed to be going into the Social Security trust fund. I feel certain that some of my IWF colleagues have a decidedly different view on this issue.

Of course, we know that this fund is (pace Harry Reid) something of a unicorn. But there is something unseemly about not putting the money into our semi-imaginary trust fund because we do know that sometime, somewhere, somebody is going to have to pay for this holiday.

When the bill comes due, it won’t be imaginary. Let’s hope that this small potatoes debate sets the stage for a genuine discussion of Social Security, which has the potential to be a very real catastrophe in the near future.

So, in a way, it’s easy to understand why the House Republicans rejected this ridiculous piece of Senate-passed legislation.

But they were outsmarted by the Democrats, now dancing rings around them. The GOP is now embracing a one-year extension, which is what the president called for early on. (See Alana Goodman’s thoughts on this.)

The interesting (but hardly unexpected) thing I noticed in channel flipping last night is that the issue is being presented by the MSM entirely from the perspective of the president and the Democrats. Fancy that.

Media people, who ordinarily believe we are under-taxed as a nation, seemed concerned that the public is going to have to pay payroll tax. They neglected to note that we're talking about a two month extension! Another spin angle: the president’s approval rating is going up, while Congress’s is going down.

One media person (I didn’t take notes, so I am going to be vague) presented this as related—as if there is this batch of approval and only so much to go around. Actually, Congress and the president’s approval aren’t related—they can both go up at the same time or down at the same time.

But this parrrots the president's narrative of a valiant president rising in the polls by fighting a do-nothing Congress, impervious to the sufferings of the American people, who yearn for an almost meaningless extension of the payroll tax holiday.Fancy that.

Given that the politics are hopeless for the GOP, they should probably take the Wall Street Journal’s sage advice:

At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly.

Then go home and return in January with a united House-Senate strategy that forces Democrats to make specific policy choices that highlight the differences between the parties on spending, taxes and regulation.

Wisconsin freshman Senator Ron Johnson has been floating a useful agenda for such a strategy. The alternative is more chaotic retreat and the return of all-Democratic rule.

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you recognize that the issue is whether the GOP can swallow this very embarrassing defeat in the name of saving itself to fight in the future for lower taxes and a rollback of government expansion.