The President and GOP leaders will meet today in another attempt to hammer out a deal on raising the debt ceiling. Thus far both sides have stuck to their talking points. The Republicans have said that any discussion about raising revenue whether it is through raising taxes or closing tax loopholes is a non-starter. The Democrats have countered that any viable plan for cutting the debt requires an increase in revenue (taxes) as well as cuts in spending. Until recently Democrats have said that any discussion about cutting entitlements is verboten.
Word from the White House this morning is that the President will offer changes in Social Security and Medicare in an effort to cut a deal. Though the details of these “changes” were not released the mere mention of including Social Security and Medicare in these discussions has caused a fire storm among Democrats.
The Democratic base has long been critical of the President for going into negotiations offering too much too soon. They feel the President too often starts his negotiations from the middle and moves right from there. They site his abandonment of a single payer health care provision before negotiations even started as a prime example. They follow up with his about face on closing Gitmo, his weak stance on gay marriage, his continuation of the Patriot Act, doubling the troops in Afghanistan and extending the Bush tax cuts as further evidence that the President is a poor poker player.
Even traditional Republicans site the President’s waffling as the genesis of their own difficulties with the Tea Party. The say his penchent for “finding common ground” has embolden Tea Partiers to believe that they can get even more of the radical changes that they seek.
So the question is, faced with a disastrous economic collapse on his watch; not to mention the beginning of his run for re-election; has the President blinked once again.
Or by offering to cut Social Security and Medicare, the most sacrosanct of all social programs in the eyes of Democrats, is the President saying to the Republicans: “I’ve put partisanship and my personal feelings aside for the good of the country. Will you join me in compromise or will you allow your ideology to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States? The choice is now in your hands.”
Did the President blink or did he execute a shrewd political gambit?
We shall see.