This pre-emptive compromise proposal seemed aimed, at least in part, at curing congenital ignorance among policy elites, both across the negotiating table and in the pundit peanut gallery, neither of whom seemed aware that Obama has been offering these proposals for months. Last month, for example, The Washington Post's Ezra Klein recounted a briefing with a senior Republican House member who laughed at the notion that Obama would support a chained CPI – all while the proposal was on the White House website. At the same time, Obama never seemed to get credit from the punditocracy for his willingness to compromise with the GOP. Republicans are unreasonable, the double-pox caucus – always eager to blame both sides – would say, but Obama needs to get serious about entitlements.
Obama's proposal will undoubtedly cure this particular flavor of ignorance, but at what cost? Double-poxers acknowledged the seriousness of his proposal; but they have a fallback position when Republicans balk: They will bemoan the GOP's unreasonableness; but, because both sides must be at fault, they will decry Obama for a failure of leadership
Republicans, predictably, rejected the budget before it was even unveiled while trying, again, to bank Obama's concessions. And that's the ultimate danger of his budget: Without extracting any reciprocal compromise, Obama has made entitlement cuts the official position of his administration.
Now the GOP is running its entitlements three-step: first they insist Obama agree to cuts, second they dismiss his offer as too "modest," as House Speaker John Boehner did last week, and finally they deplore the "modest" offer they demanded as a "shocking attack on seniors," as National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden did Wednesday. Team Obama might recall having seen these moves before, as when Paul Ryan and his colleagues swing back and forth between embracing Obamacare's Medicare cuts during election and embracing them during budget writing. But those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.
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