* Massive deficit deal taking shape? The Post and the Times both weigh in this morning with mega-scoops on the current state of the debt talks, with Obama apparently prepared to offer major cuts to Social Security and Medicare — though details are scarce — in exchange for as much as $1 trillion in new revenues from Republicans.
They both have the feel of trial balloons being floated by the White House and/or Dems to gain theatrical advantage in advance of today’s big meeting between Obama and Congressional leaders, and there are a few key points to glean from both stories.
* Obama does “big things”: First, the leaks position the President as the main force pushing for an even bigger deal — $4 trillion in savings — than either side previously envisioned. This is in keeping with one of the central messages of Obama’s presidency and reelection campaign: He does “big things,” and refuses to accept conventional views of the limitations that petty partisanship and the “smallness of our politics” have placed on what’s possible. Of course, he’s also placing an awfully big bet on the notion that accomplishing “big things” on deficit reduction is a key to reelection — presumably to reassure independents worried about off-the-rails Dem spending — even as unemployment, the top concern of voters, remains dangerously high.
* $1 trillion in new revenues? Really? The second point: Approach John Boehner’s offer of as much as $1 trillion in new revenues — which Boehner privately signaled openness to — with caution. The Times adds the key detail that Boehner is pushing to lower tax rates while closing loopholes, so the degree of true flexibility here is unclear.
* White House braces for blast of “sell-out” criticism from Dems: The third key point: The White House is now floating the argument officials will make to Congressional Democrats who will inevitably be angered with the big entitlements changes Obama seems to want. The Times channels the White House: “Democrats will be in stronger shape politically heading into November 2012 if they help enact a credible deficit reduction deal, allowing them to mount the argument that they protected Medicare from a much more drastic overhaul by Republicans.”
In other words, White House officials seem to have adopted the opposite view of many liberals, who say that cutting Medicare would deprive Dems of a major way of drawing a contrast with Republicans in 2012. The White House’s view seems to be that reaching a deal that cuts Medicare will allow Dems to continue drawing a contrast by arguing that they took the deficit off the table as an issue and thus protected Medicare from the much deeper cuts envisioned by Republicans.
* White House’s argument on entitlements: Along those lines, White House officials tell ABC News that cuts to Social Security and Medicare will be modest compared to those championed by the GOP.
* Will Dems swallow big entitlement cuts? Senator Sheldon Whitehouse puts Obama on notice: “I think it is a risky thing for the White House to basically take the bet that we can be presented with something at the last minute and we will go for it.”
* Do House Dems have any leverage? With many Republicans likely to vote No on any debt ceiling deal, the GOP leadership will need Democrats to pass an eventual compromise. And so, as E.J. Dionne notes, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer should use this as a leverage point to prevent the deal from being too much of a sellout.
ICYMI: Dem Rep. Peter Welsh urges fellow Dems to vote No on any debt ceiling deal that’s badly skewed in the direction of spending cuts.
* Why liberals are upset with Obama’s handling of debt talks: Michael Crowley has the most comprehensive rundown I’ve seen yet of the left’s indictment of the President’s handling of this whole affair.
* Senate Dems still holding out for crazy notion of real compromise: Amazingly, many Senate Democrats are now embracing Kent Conrad’s call for deficit reduction through a 50-50 split between new revenues and spending cuts.
These poor, deluded souls have not gotten the memo that “bipartisan compromise” in Washington means Republicans getting pretty much everything they want.
* Dems hold the edge in Wisconsin recall fight: Chris Bowers has a comprehensive breakdown of the fundraising edge Dems hold, and it’s all fueled by small donors and unions, another sign that the grassroots energy unleashed by Scott Walker’s overreach seems to be holding.
* Twitter town hall exposed Beltway press’s priorities: Interesting stuff from Jason Linkins on how yesterday’s Obama Twitter-thon showed ordinary participants asknig far more questions about jobs than deficit-obsessed Washington reporters posed.
* 2012 GOP candidates spew nonstop falsehoods: Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler takes a big-picture look at the record and concludes that the 2012 GOP hopefuls are lying a good deal more often than Obama, though Mitt Romney does pretty well, too.
* And Bachmann doubles down on debt-ceiling demagoguery: From Michele Bachmann’s first ad, in Iowa: “I. Will. Not. Vote. To raise the debt ceiling.”
Clearly, Bachmann intends to seize on the eventual debt ceiling vote to demagogue her way to victory in the Iowa caucuses, and it’ll be interesting to see how the other 2012 hopefuls respond.
What else is happening?