Save Me, O Enemy

One of the odder phenomena surrounding the big fiscal talks is the extent to which Obama-hating Republicans are relying on the charity of Barack Obama to save them from their own excesses. Having spent the entire 2012 election cycle treating the president as a semi-psychopathic thug who has never, ever reached out to Republicans, they now expect him not only to do backflips over their grudging willingness to put revenues (but not tax rates!) on the table, but to swallow their entire spending-side agenda out of gratitude. Check out this quote Dana Milbank recorded at a House GOP press conference yesterday:

One of Boehner’s lieutenants, Pete Roskam of Illinois, stepped to the microphones, essentially pleading for the president to show mercy. “President Obama has an unbelievable opportunity to be a transformational president — that is, to bring the country together,” he said. “Or he can devolve into zero-sum-game politics, where he wins and other people lose.”

This is pretty interesting coming from one of the stipulated losers. And it’s highly reminiscent of that twilight period in the late 1990s when House Republicans were simultaneously begging Bill Clinton to take the lead on Social Security “reform” even as they sought to drive him from office.

You couldn’t blame Obama for devising some serious acts of public humiliation for these guys before he even considers their pleas to come to the table and help them out of the fiscal policy trap they have built for themselves.

UPDATE: At TNR, Bill Galston begs to differ, believing no deal is possible so long as the negotiations are held in public.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.