President Obama met with congressional leaders from both parties and both chambers at the White House this morning about the latest in a series of self-inflicted, easily-avoided wounds. There were no realistic hopes that the policymakers would somehow reach an agreement to replace the sequestration cuts, and expectations were met: the group spoke for about an hour and then quit, resolving nothing.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) left the meeting and spoke for about a minute to reporters without taking questions. For those who can't watch clips online, he argued:
"Let's make it clear, the president got his tax hike on January 1st. The discussion about revenue, in my view, is over. It's about taking on the spending problem here in Washington."
I'm trying to think of a way to explain this in a way Boehner will understand. As the Speaker sees it, the very idea of a balanced compromise is ridiculous -- a compromise would necessarily include revenue, Democrats already got new revenue, so it's outrageous for anyone to even raise the possibility.
Let's put this as plainly as possible: in the summer of 2011, both sides accepted a debt-reduction deal that cut spending by over $1.2 trillion without any additional revenue -- a win for Republicans. In late 2012, both sides accepted another deal that raised about $600 billion in revenue without any additional cuts -- a win for Democrats.
Now it's time to add another piece to the puzzle, and the Speaker of the House only remembers part of the very recent past.
"Let's make it clear, the president got his tax hike on January 1st. The discussion about revenue, in my view, is over."
...makes exactly as much sense as this sentence:
"Let's make it clear, Republicans got their spending cuts in 2011. The discussion about spending cuts, in my view, is over."
Substantively, there is no difference between the two arguments. Both represent extremes. Except right now, Republicans think the first sentence makes perfect sense and no one is even bothering with the second sentence.
Indeed, if Boehner were to accept Obama's compromise, Boehner would still come out on top since the spending-cut totals would still easily outweigh the revenue totals. The president's offer, at face value, is already a win for the GOP.
But Republicans won't accept a win; they'll accept a rout. According to Boehner, the only available solution to a problem he helped create is one in which his side gets 100% of what it wants, predicated on the assumption that the massive spending cuts agreed to in 2011 have escaped Republicans' memories altogether.
At this point, most Americans want a compromise. Most Democrats want and have already proposed a compromise. But Boehner wants everyone to know there will be no compromise, and there's nothing the president can say or do to change his mind.
I'll now look forward to pundits everywhere telling me how "both sides" are to blame.