Let’s get over the notion that the Republicans are the ones preventing that “balanced” deal the president insists on securing. The New York Times (hardly the hotbed of the conservative media) acknowledges:

Mr. Boehner has offered to raise his opening bid of $800 billion in increased tax revenue over 10 years, but only if the president makes a significant commitment to overhaul entitlements and slow their growth. The White House’s opening bid committed to pressing changes next year to federal health care programs that would save $400 billion over 10 years. The speaker wants a far larger pledge and a firm commitment that the president will put his political weight behind substantive changes to Medicare and the tax code.


The president, Mr. Boehner said, appears intent on squandering “a golden opportunity to make 2013 the year that we enact fundamental tax reform and entitlement reform to begin to solve our country’s debt problem and, frankly, revenue problem.”

Well, what is the problem then? Obviously, it is that in agreeing to the essence of the president’s demands on taxes, the Republicans discover the president has no interest in or has insufficient nerve to tackle spending. Thursday night, a spokesman for the speaker put out this e-mail: “The President and Speaker had a frank meeting in the oval office tonight. It lasted approximately 50 minutes. There will be no further readout of the meeting, but lines of communication remain open.” 

This has become a farce. The Post editorial board takes the president to task because “there’s no way to fix America’s problem without doing something on entitlements. If the Democrats — and Mr. Obama, in particular — don’t get more seriously into that discussion, they have no standing to complain about the Republicans’ lack of balance.” The president should be concerned he is losing the allegience of serious-minded independents and centrist Democrats who took him at his word that he would reform entitlements.

Speaker of the House John Boehner
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

You would think more editorial boards and liberal pundits who complained about a balanced approach would be all over the president. You won, take yes! You said you’d reform entitlements! But of course they too would rather lay the blame at the GOP’s feet than call out the president for his gross responsibility and frankly lack of courage.

Alas, the president now has to decide. Can he still blame the Republicans for failing to make a deal when even the Gray Lady can see significant revenue is on the table? Hmm. Can he escape agreement on real entitlement reforms, which involves taking on his own side, or can he get away with cosmetic, phony cuts ( squeezing providers is always a meaningless gesture, soon to be repealed down the road)?

The president was teetering on the brink of incoherence by insisting that hiking rates was the only way to increase taxes on the rich. (His past remarks to the contrary and simple math, not to mention the Simpson-Bowles tax plan, tell us otherwise.) Now, he is lacking a rationale, even one the liberal media can sustain for him, for refusing to make a deal. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) had the courage to take on the loudest voices in his base. Is the president just a less responsible pol? It sure looks that way.