Political Animal


March 07, 2013 10:22 AM Giving Your Opponents A Choice

By Ed Kilgore

There’s a lot of confusion (and in certain Republican and Democratic quarters, consternation) over the president’s dinner with Republican senators last night, touted by all involved as focused on reviving prospects for a “grand bargain” on the budget. But the more fundamental purpose, which couldn’t have been clearer had the participants put up a big marquee sign outside the Jefferson Hotel advertising the theme, was to exclude House Republicans from such convivial discussions as the irresponsible wreckers they undoubtedly are.

So for the president, the strategic value of such gestures is pretty clear, whether or not they materially improve the prospects of an acceptable budget deal. E.J. Dionne lays it out:

From Obama’s point of view, engaging with Senate Republicans now to reach a broad settlement makes both practical sense, because there is a plausible chance for a deal, and political sense, because he will demonstrate how far he has been willing to go in offering cuts that Republicans say they support. In the process, he would underscore that the current impasse has been caused primarily by the refusal of House Republicans to accept new revenues.
While it’s the GOP that has been using serial, self-created crises to gain political leverage, many in the party are no less worn out by them than the Democrats. “Even we are tired . . . of lurching from one cliff to another,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. “I think that’s lending some pressure towards trying to come up with some kind of a grand bargain.”

Such gambits drive some Democrats crazy, partly because they don’t see their utility and partly because they fear Obama will triangulate them and make a deal involving “entitlement reforms” they oppose. But if Obama is simply giving Senate Republicans and the public at large a chance to think about what life would be like if one of our two major parties had not been conquered by ideologues, the price he’s paying may be no higher than the dinner tab.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on March 07, 2013 10:35 AM:

    Since I'm liable to be one of the victims in any "Grand Bargain," pardon me if when the President meets with Republicans, who are the real reason we're in the economic hole we're in - and not the fault of the youngs, the olds, the sicks, the handicappeds, the blacks, the browns, the womens, and/or the gays - I start to get a little nervous.

    IMO, if you're a Republican politician, or a registered Republican voter, YOU should be the ones punished in any "Grand Bargain" - and YOU should have the living sh*t taxed out of you, until we start to build up a surplus.

    YOU broke America. YOU pay for it!

  • jjm on March 07, 2013 10:55 AM:

    To c u n d gulag on March 07, 2013 10:35 AM: What has he given away so far? If it's not much, then your fears are likely baseless. We can hope.

  • c u n d gulag on March 07, 2013 11:01 AM:

    Yeah, I understand that they're likely baseless.

    But, what if one of these days, when he's talking with, or to, them, the Republicans up and agree with President Obama for the first and last time?

    What I'm hoping, is that he's talking openly about some "Grand Bargain" as a ploy to make the Republicans look as Conservative and intransigent as they are, so that voters can see how irrational they've become.

    FSM knows, our MSM won't EVER point that out!

  • bdop4 on March 07, 2013 12:35 PM:

    Concur with c u n d gulag. One day Obama is going to offer one of his BS "grand bargains," and the repubs are going to take him up on it. Then our prospects for a real recovery are screwed.

    A "balanced" approach only leaves us running in place.

  • Doug on March 07, 2013 7:06 PM:

    gulag, perhaps the following might put this in a better perspective:
    1) The only way ANY "balanced" approach to our current economic problems will occur is if there are increased revenues in that agreement.
    2) If there are increased revenues in that agreement, Boehner will have to again jettison the "Hastert Rule" because a majority of his caucus won't support such a deal. Assuming it even GETS to the House floor.
    3) To pass that agreement will then require House Democrats to make up the difference.
    4)House Democrats are currently being led by Rep. Pelosi. Can you see Pelosi urging her caucus to support SS or Medicare cuts? I can't.
    As best I can tell, this w(h)ining and dining is simply another move by the President to show the country that, no, it's not because the President doesn't TALK to Republicans that they refuse to do anything. This is just President Obama chipping away at the fake meme "both sides are to blame."
    FSM knows the MSM won't...