Ezra Klein had a rather rude awakening the other day. He’d written a column suggesting that “failure to commmunicate” was behind the gridlock:
Still, over the course of dozens of conversations with Democrats and Republicans on Medicare, I’m convinced that the zone of agreement is larger than many participants in the debate realize. What’s holding an agreement up is, in part, that Republicans are far less willing to compromise on taxes than Democrats are to compromise on Medicare and Social Security. But what shouldn’t be holding an agreement up is that top Republicans simply don’t know the compromises the White House is willing to make on Medicare and Social Security
All good, right? It’s been the “mainstream” thought among the media, that if (except when they think he should “lead”) both sides would “communicate better” all this could be worked out. That’s what Ezra thought, but then came the wake-up call.
Jonathan Chait wrote an article disagreeing with Ezra’s point.
All this is to say that, if Obama could get hold of Klein’s mystery legislator and inform him of his budget offer, it almost certainly wouldn’t make a difference. He would come up with something – the cuts aren’t real, or the taxes are awful, or they can’t trust Obama to carry them out, or something.
What was the “wake-up” point? Ezra got to see this happen in real time, in an exchange on Twitter:
So let’s back up. Murphy’s initial view was that to unlock GOP votes for a budget deal, Obama just needed to endorse chained CPI and more means-testing in Medicare. Then it was pointed out that Obama has endorsed means-testing in Medicare, so Murphy wondered why he didn’t endorse chained CPI as part of a deal. Then it was pointed out that Obama did endorse chained CPI, at which point Murphy called chained CPI “a gimmick,” and said Obama had to endorse raising the Medicare age, drop his demands for more revenue as part of a deal and earn back the GOP’s trust.
Recall what Chait said would happen if the Republican legislator in my column was forced to react to the fact that Obama has endorsed chained CPI: “He would come up with something – the cuts aren’t real, or the taxes are awful, or they can’t trust Obama to carry them out, or something.” Check, check, and check.
In other words, it doesn’t matter what the President says or proposes. The Republicans will be against it. It’s something that has been noticed and talked about rather constantly by many outside the “professional media.” The Republicans in Congress have a singular reaction:
Even when what he proposes was originally a Republican idea, even when it was put forward by a current serving member, they suddenly remember that … they’re against it. The State of the Union speech was virtually a litany of ideas to enact which, as he pointed out, were originally considered good ideas by the Republican Party.
The “old idea” that so many in the media seem to cling to is that of course the Republicans will negotiate. Since they’re not, it must be a failure of “leadership” or “failure of communications.” The idea that campaign rhetoric, or thundering pronouncements should be taken with a hefty grain of salt, that really it’s not what they’re going to do. Ezra Klein just got a dash of cold water in the face. Yes, that the Republicans are going that way, that they’re not “winking and nodding” while saying these things.
You see it doesn’t matter that there’s areas of agreement or room for compromise. The Republicans are against it, no matter what. That realization is starting to sink in, and some of the media have woken up to it. Took them long enough.