This week’s Republican fiasco is surprising only because it surprises so many conservatives. What did we expect to come from House-Senate budget negotiations – a stronger attack on deficits?

House Republican leadership succeeded in getting 73 percent of House Republican members to vote for the budget deal, with only 62 Republicans voting against it. My home state’s Republican congressional delegation (Colorado) split evenly on the vote, with two supporting it and two opposed.

That split vote symbolizes what is fundamentally wrong with the budget deal: It splits the Republican Party instead of unifying it.

What else is wrong with the deal negotiated by GOP Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and his Democratic counterpart in the Senate? For starters, it abandons promises made by GOP leadership about spending cuts at the conclusion of the last surrender, when Republicans were cajoled into raising the debt ceiling another $2 trillion. It raises taxes and abandons the sequester spending reductions without any reform in entitlements.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show at Ford’s Theater?

The explanation and justification offered by Rep. Ryan and Speaker Boehner for this dubious package is that “it is the best we can get at this time,” meaning it is the best deal we can get when we are unwilling to do battle for anything better. And that, my friends, is the real problem – the Republican fear of returning to the battlefield.

Unless something changes soon, this fevered fear among the beltway Republican establishment will lead to other negotiated surrenders in the months ahead on issues equally important. Once you get an appetite for it, surrender becomes easier and easier, especially when you get praised for it by the liberal media.

Yes, it is true that every negotiation with the opposition party involves some compromise. But not every compromise includes a surrender of principle and broken promises.

This budget deal is being sold by Republican leaders as a pragmatic move, a two-year cease-fire that puts off budget battles until after the 2014 elections, and not a permanent surrender involving anything important. The problem with that is that it is simply not true. Now that the sequester cuts have been abandoned, it will be 10 times more difficult to restore those cuts in the next round of negotiations.

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What is strikingly unpragmatic about this new mode of Republican negotiation is that Republican leaders give up principle at the beginning so as to gain “maximum flexibility.” Principles do tend to complicate things and limit your choices – which is what they are supposed to do!

Apparently, in the minds of Boehner and Ryan, conservatives were extraordinarily naïve in thinking that a budget “deal” with Democrats would involve some compromise by Democrats on the continued growth of entitlement spending. Nope. Compromise is something expected of conservatives, not liberals: Expecting any budget deal to actually restrain entitlement spending is an example of “tea party extremism.” That has been standard Democratic rhetoric for years, and now, evidently, it is the new Republican party line.

That is the poison in the soup: House Republican leaders are attacking the tea party, Heritage Action and other conservative groups for their expectation that Republicans in Congress should adhere to principle. But thinking and talking about principles is “old school,” and smart Republicans now talk only about “winning.”

The bottom line is that Boehner, Ryan and Rove now believe that conservatives are the real enemy, not Democrats. That’s because they find it easier to cut deals with big-government Democrats than with less-government conservatives!

By this budget deal and their gratuitous, over-the-top attacks on conservative critics, Boehner and the House GOP leadership have declared war on the conservative wing of the Republican Party. How this strategy translates into Republican victory in the 2014 and 2016 elections is a mystery to everyone outside the beltway.

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