Bernstein thinks the freeze will backfire politically, and adds this Cheneyesque remark:That's presumably a reference to Dick Cheney's claim that deficits don't matter, not to his defense of torture and presidential (and vice-presidential) lawlessness -- so I think E.D. Kain is perhaps a bit over the top in citing Sullivan for a Malkin Award nomination. Unless Sullivan meant that I'm well on the path to being a war criminal, but I really don't think that's the case.
Hardly anyone actually cares about budget deficits, and one group of people—federal employees (and their families, and perhaps their friends) do care intensely about federal employee pay.
Still, I suppose a bit of clarification is in order. I don't really know the context in which Cheney said that deficits don't matter, but if he was talking about the direct effects of deficits on electoral politics, then he was absolutely correct. Yes, there are a few honest deficit hawks at the elite level (Sullivan most certainly included), but I'm comfortable with saying that "hardly anyone" at the mass level cares about budget deficits.
Yes, the deficit will show up in polls once in a while. I very much doubt that those polls are meaningful. First of all, as always I'll refer everyone back to the famous town hall style debate way back in 1992 between George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot, in which someone asked about the "deficit" despite clearly meaning "the economy." Until I see evidence to the contrary, I'll assume that most people have no idea what "deficit" means. Moreover, even if those who show up on polls really mean the federal budget deficit and not some general notion of the economy or jobs, I very much doubt that it's a voting issue even for them.
At any rate, I'm not speaking at all in that post about my personal views of whether deficits are good or bad; I'm talking about my understanding of the public opinion data about deficits, combined with a sense of how elections work. As it happens (and as I've said), I'm not a deficit dove at all, so I certainly do come down on the other side of Sullivan on the substance of this one. But my analysis of the data and the situation isn't driven by my position on the issue, on this or anything else.