I was reasonably sure that the latest Marcus column would cause to have to uh revise and update my earlier post declaring her a heroine of Ballance. The fact on which she comments is that Republican representatives live-tweeted snark during the question and answer session with Republican representatives (which was closed to the public because they looked like fools when it was on TV (until Fox News cut away to something else which tells you all you need to know)).
It is very hard to draw ballanced conclusions from a discussion of such an event. To my amazement Marcus managed. This column has it all. 1) Bipartisanthink, 2) the cult of the Presidency, 3) a dumb metaphor, 4) recognition that the conclusion is false part way through 5) disrespect for public opinion 6)above all, love of a grand bargain.
1) "But failure would not only tarnish Republicans; it would also stain Obama’s legacy. " 2) "Great presidential leadership entails figuring out how to deal with even those who do not like you." (note that Ruth Marcus has just asserted that Lincoln wasn't a great President). 3) "The president portrayed himself as a sort of maitre d’ for budget negotiations, setting the table for others to forge an agreement. " 4) "It’s true that there are times when presidential intervention in delicate congressional negotiations can be counterproductive. It’s certainly true that there are times when congressional Democrats have advised the White House to butt out. " "Perhaps he’s posturing; if the president is seen as coveting a deal too much, he won’t be able to get the kind he wants. Perhaps it’s simple realism; Republicans’ refusal to consider revenue raised by curtailing loopholes is unacceptable, and the president shouldn’t accept a cuts-only deal." 5) "he is the one who is going to have to sell the notion of unpopular changes — curbing Medicare spending, reducing Social Security benefits or curtailing popular tax breaks — to a nation that says it wants a balanced bargain but may balk when that bargain is translated into painful specifics." Notice that the proper response to such a "balk" is presidential leadership not doing what the public wants. Marcus is assuming her readers assume the public is more ignorant than it is and will be shocked to find out about the painful specifics. But the public has spoken (to pollsters). Huge majorities oppose cutting Medicare or Social Security to reduce the deficit. Marcus has lost confidence in the public and a new public will have to be elected. She just assumes that Obama must find a way to reach agreement with Republicans (which is impossible) in order to widen the tax base and cut social security and Medicare although the public supports at most one of those actions (solid majorities support higher taxes on high incomes and support reducing tax expenditures in the abstract but that doesn't mean a majority would support say eliminating the mortgage interest deduction). It is very clear what the public wishes to be left undone. This public view is unacceptable to Marcus, so she asserts that Obama must find some way to give the public what it doesn't want by working with Republicans who hate him. 6) "the president sounded distinctly pessimistic about the prospects for such a bargain and disturbingly unconcerned about failing to reach one. That, he said, would be more missed opportunity than “crisis.”" heh indeed. So Marcus is disturbed by the claim that a failure to reach a grand bargain wouldnìt be a crisis. Does this mean she thinks it would be a crisis ? She doesn't say. The fact that no level of conern about the risk of failint to reach one is eccessive is too obvious for there to be any need for Marcus to argue the point. The math, by the way, does not demand it.