If only it was just campaign rhetoric: the continuing saga of the "balanced approach"

If only it was just campaign rhetoric

by digby

It's getting to the point where I'm hoping the Republicans manage to vote in a bunch of tea partiers because the president keeps promising to "compromise" in ways that will betray his own party and the only thing that will stop him from making horrible deals are people who hate him with such a passion that they'll destroy their own agenda rather than let him take credit for it. How else am I supposed to react when he says thing like this?

What I'm offering the American people is a balanced approach that the majority agrees with, including a lot of Republicans. And for me to be able to say to the Republicans, the election is over; you no longer need to be focused on trying to beat me; what you need to be focused on and what you should have been focused on from the start is how do we advance the American economy — I'm prepared to make a whole range of compromises, some of which I get criticized from the Democratic Party on, in order to make progress. But we're going to need compromise on your side as well. And the days of viewing compromise as a dirty word need to be over because the American people are tired of it.

That's, I think, a message that will resonate not with every Republican, but I think with a lot of fair-minded Republican legislators who probably feel somewhat discouraged about having served in one of the least productive Congresses in American history.

And I hear — not in public, but in private — that many of them would like to go ahead and get some stuff done because they recognize that our children and our grandchildren have a stake in us being able to get this work done.
If you wonder what the Democratic party has been reluctant to support him on, he talked a little bit a week or so ago about how they don't get enough credit for caving on their most important priorities:
He particularly believes that Democrats do not receive enough credit for their willingness to accept cuts in Medicare and Social Security, while Republicans oppose almost any tax increase to reduce the deficit.
Now one could chalk all this up to election year rhetoric, in which he's just trying to position Romney as a nut and himself in the middle, except for the history of the past three and a half years in which he has said over and over again that he really wants to do this. In fact, he's been saying it since before he was inaugurated.

Here's a reminder of what he's had in mind since January 10th, 2009:
I asked the president-elect, "At the end of the day, are you really talking about over the course of your presidency some kind of grand bargain? That you have tax reform, healthcare reform, entitlement reform including Social Security and Medicare, where everybody in the country is going to have to sacrifice something, accept change for the greater good?"

"Yes," Obama said.

"And when will that get done?" I asked.

"Well, right now, I’m focused on a pretty heavy lift, which is making sure we get that reinvestment and recovery package in place. But what you described is exactly what we’re going to have to do. What we have to do is to take a look at our structural deficit, how are we paying for government? What are we getting for it? And how do we make the system more efficient?"

"And eventually sacrifice from everyone?" I asked.

"Everybody’s going to have to give. Everybody’s going to have to have some skin in the game," Obama said.
During the Grand Bargain negotiations two years later, he put that all on the table:
That night, Obama prepared his party’s congressional leaders. He warned Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that he might return to the position under discussion the previous Sunday — that is, cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in exchange for just $800 billion in tax increases. Would they support him?

The Democratic leaders “kind of gulped” when they heard the details, [WH chief of staff William] Daley recalled. ... Reluctantly, Reid and Pelosi agreed to do their best to support the plan
The wingnuts balked at the measly tax increases and the whole thing went up in flames. Thank goodness.

This is why we need a strong progressive bloc in congress. We simply cannot count on the Tea Party to continue to be stupid enough keep centrist Democratic presidents from using their own base as a bargaining chip in phony debt negotiations. Some day these conservatives are going to wake up and realize that working with them is a great way to advance their agenda. (The president seems convinced that will happen right after the election...)

But sadly, we probably won't have a strong progressive bloc in November. The Party is seeing to it that far more New Democrat/Blue Dog style conserva-Dems will be elected to the congress than progressives. And we know they won't stop any of this. So keep your fingers crossed that these congressional wingnuts stay insane enough to keep the "centrists" from doing their worst. It appears that it's all we've got.