He's venting at Obama today for finally absorbing the ineluctable fact that the current GOP will never, ever support increasing government revenues, and thereby cannot get to the Grand Bargain so many of us want. But look: Obama has put Medicare on the table before and got nothing for it. He has even cut Medicare and been pilloried by the GOP for it. He has been open to major tax reform: they are uninterested until they regain the White House. He compromised on the extension of the Bush tax cuts … only to be ambushed by the debt ceiling fiasco, which seriously hurt him.
I agree with David that Obamaism matters; but I don't think Obama has treated us all like saps for proposing a second stimulus now and less radical ($3 trillion) debt reduction later. Yes, it's not Bowles-Simpson. Yes, its tax proposals will not radically simplify the system (which is what we need) and are geared for political purposes … but at this point, what's he seriously supposed to do?
The only way forward to a Grand Bargain is by calling the GOP bluff on taxes and going to the country on it. Once the Tea Party seized the House, this was always the likeliest scenario. Obama tried extremely hard to avoid it – which is what precipitated the last year of humiliations – which have taken a toll on his ratings and, far more dangerously, wounded his authority as president. And so, he has been forced into political contrast. To blame Obama for this seems absurd to me – and is only in the column because David is leerier of saying what needs to be said: that the current Republican party is a radical, extremist, reckless force that is far more concerned with defeating this president than in reforming the country on bipartisan lines.
And the political logic of the shift, even if it is a Plan B, is compelling. If Perry is the candidate, the choice in 2012 will be between an incrementalist like Obama who is prepared to put entitlement cuts and tax hikes on the table, and a radical who has called social security a "monstrous lie", and wants all the fiscal sacrifice to come from the middle class and poor.
I wish it hadn't come to this. But Obama, to my mind, has successfully demonstrated he has been willing to compromise, and the GOP has successfully demonstrated they cannot. I think most Americans get that. I think they get that if there has been a sap in all this, it isn't David Brooks for hoping for bipartisan reform, but Obama for hoping for sanity from today's GOP.