The face-off between the White House and the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has been portrayed as a lopsided match by liberal pundits and much of the mainstream media. The reality is quite different and is best seen through the prism of two speeches.

This was from President Obama’s speech to the country one week ago:

“The only reason this balanced approach isn’t on its way to becoming law right now is because a significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a different approach — a cuts-only approach — an approach that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all. And because nothing is asked of those at the top of the income scale, such an approach would close the deficit only with more severe cuts to programs we all care about — cuts that place a greater burden on working families.
“So the debate right now isn’t about whether we need to make tough choices. Democrats and Republicans agree on the amount of deficit reduction we need. The debate is about how it should be done. Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask a corporate jet owner or the oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get. How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries? How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for?
“That’s not right. It’s not fair.” [Emphasis added]

This, in a nutshell, is why liberals are aggrieved. Obama elevated bargaining points to the level of moral principles and then caved.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in his just-completed news conference, reminded the country of his own promise, made in a speech in New York that was bitterly criticized by the White House, Democrats and much of the chattering class. Boehner’s promise was that there would be no tax increases and that there would be spending cuts greater than the amount of the debt increase. He didn’t get some other items (e.g., the balanced-budget amendment), but he did what he said he would.

This is why he’s being cheered even by Republicans who oppose the final deal. Robert Costa reports:

“We are going to be okay,” says Rep. Allen West (R., Fla.), a tea-party star who supports the deal. He denies that Boehner is in trouble with conservatives. “No, he is not,” West says. “The president is in trouble — the president surrendered.”

Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R., Ill.) admits to being disappointed with the final deal, “to a degree.” Still, he says, conservatives should not be throwing a tantrum. “We fought a fight as hard as we could fight,” he says. “This thing will probably pass today. I am not going to vote for it. But look at how the world has changed.” In that, he says, “I take heart.”

Looking at the big picture, Walsh adds, “this is clearly a win for all these troublesome conservative Republicans who came here to change the world.” Boehner, he notes, retains his popularity behind closed doors. “Everyone in that room loves him,” he says.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) confirmed the love-fest. “In fact, I stood up at the end and said, I could not be more proud of how our leadership has handled this,” he says. “Even to those of us who oppose the bill, he has been exceptionally good. I am a bigger supporter of John Boehner now than I’ve ever been.”

“[Boehner] has the capacity to keep a very diverse conference together,” says Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.), a former Republican Study Committee chairman. Though there are concerns about the deal’s balanced-budget amendment process and defense-spending changes, Price says Boehner took care to address both fronts this afternoon.

If if the acclaim is not so feverish as Boehner’s supporters portray, there is little sign that his own party or the grass roots are demoralized or angry with him, which is not the case with Obama. He is the leader of one-half of Congress. And he can’t get a balanced-budget amendment or insulate defense from cuts. That is the consequence of the 2008 election, which was only partially altered by the 2010 election. All Boehner can do is to facilitate the best deal possible and hand the ball off to the candidates in 2012.

So who came out ahead in this deal? It’s not even close.