Monday, October 07, 2013

A Beltway Village rationale for Obama and the Democrats capitulating on the debt ceiling

Ron Fournier offers a rationale for non-negotiation negotiations over the debt ceiling that is drenched in Beltway Village assumptions, but may reflect the President's own reasoning, given his recent suggestions he's ready to deal, in Why Obama Must Talk to the GOP National Journal 10/07/2013:

Obama has at least two incentives to talk. First, there is the matter of optics. Voters want to believe that their leaders are open-minded, a trait they particularly expect in a president who promised to change the culture of Washington. Obama simply undermines his credibility by stiff-arming the GOP. Their obstinacy is no excuse for his. During the last protracted government shutdown, President Clinton talked almost every day with GOP rivals Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole.

Second, Obama has an opportunity to deftly steer an embattled and divided GOP away from Obamacare and to an issue worthy of high-stakes negotiations: The nation's long-term budget crisis. While it's true that the deficit has dropped in recent months, nothing has been done to secure Social Security and Medicare beyond the next 10 years. Punting this red-ink quandary to the next president would mar Obama's legacy.

In April, I wrote that both the White House and the GOP House had incentive to strike a deal that would both raise taxes and trim entitlement spending. The story traced the outlines of such a deal, but the moment was lost. Boehner doesn't trust Obama and is worried about a revolt from his no-compromise caucus. Obama doesn't trust Boehner and is worried about a revolt from his no-compromise caucus. The House speaker reportedly raised the idea of a so-called grand bargain at a White House meeting last week, and got laughed at. That is the exact wrong response.
This is a Village wet-dream for the outcome. Obama being the Grown-Up In The Room. Cutting benefits and Social Security and Medicare. (Fondly known to the let-Grandma-eat-catfood enthusiasts like Fournier as the Grand Bargain.) Obsession over the deficit and debt during a depression. Each party have separate-but-equal "no-compromise caucus," which star reporter convention requires to be there, even when it doesn't come close to matching reality.

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