I’m not a fan of this ridiculous deficit obsession and wish Obama and the Democrats and even Republicans would rise to the historic occasion in front of them and pass meaningful demand-side legislation, but I can’t help but enjoy the game Obama is playing with the little mouse from Virginia:
In the Monday White House meeting, Cantor proposed cuts to Medicare benefits, but nothing that might entice Democrats. Go learn the definition of “shared sacrifice,” Obama scoffed. He assigned Cantor homework: We are short of the $2.4 trillion goal that will get us past the 2012 elections, find some cuts that Republicans don’t particularly like to put on the table, we’ve already offered you a bunch of cuts Democrats don’t like. You must, Obama said, work to meet us in the middle.
Boehner hardly said a word in the meeting. His stance seems to be: if Cantor didn’t like the grand bargain, he’s welcome to negotiate one on his own. Republicans left the meeting noticeably subdued. Few had anything they wanted to say about it. And Cantor may have just jumped from the frying pan of Biden’s debt talks and into the fire of Obama’s. He has little experience hammering out legislative deals — particularly at this level. He wanted a smaller deal, and now Boehner’s sitting back and watching silently as Cantor flounders. A deal without at least some symbolic revenue increases, even if they’re offset with an Alternative Minimum Tax or another fix, cannot pass the Senate. Cantor is quickly learning that the purism that plays with the freshmen doesn’t work in the Oval Office. It will be interesting to see how long he lasts as the loudest negotiator, especially if the markets start to freak out. The Dow dropped nearly 200 points on Monday. Give it a week and we’ll be near TARP levels of panic.