Here’s the first lesson from the early skirmishing over ways to avoid the fiscal cliff: Democrats and liberals have to stop elevating Grover Norquist, the anti-government crusader who wields his no-tax pledge as a nuclear weapon, into the role of a political Superman. Pretending that Norquist is more powerful than he is allows Republicans to win acclaim they haven’t earned yet. Without making a single substantive concession, they get loads of praise just for saying they are willing to ignore those old pledges to Grover. You can give him props as a public relations genius. Like Ke$ha or Beyonce, he is widely known in Washington by only one name. But kudos for an openness to compromise should be reserved for Republicans who put forward concrete proposals to raise taxes.
The problem, of course, is that there's no such break happening. Whatever flirting various members might be doing around the edges of tax "reform" has nothing to do with breaking the pledge on tax rates. That's been made abundantly clear by House Speaker John Boehner. Schumer is smart enough to know this, so maybe he's just trying to keep the narrative going in the media that Republicans are in disarray. If that's his strategy, he might be being a bit too cute. There's advantage to the Republicans in these negotiations if there's a media narrative that they're not wholly intransigent. Which they are, and which they should be called out for.