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Paul Ryan
Rep. Paul Ryan has hurt feelings. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

There's so much wrong to unpack in this New York Times article by Jackie Calmes, under the headline "Obama's Deficit Dilemma" that it's hard to know where to begin. But let's start with this: the idea that "the president had opted not to endorse the recommendations of a deficit commission he had created in hopes of brokering a bold, bipartisan deficit deal."

There were no recommendations from that deficit commission because the commission was a failure. It failed in meeting its deadline. It failed in gaining consensus. It failed in every possible way, except in giving the Beltway media an opportunity to tsk-tsk over the deficit and partisanship. And to further this narrative: "That gave rise to a portrayal that has stuck, popularized by Republicans, pundits and some Democrats: that the president, out of political timidity, snubbed his own panel’s plan."

Snubbing is a popular theme in the article, with this as the central drama:

WASHINGTON — President Obama was backstage at an auditorium at George Washington University last April preparing to give a major speech, when William M. Daley, then his chief of staff, spied an unexpected guest in the audience: Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, whose budget plan Mr. Obama was about to shred.

“Try to tell the president!” Mr. Daley directed an aide.

It was too late to deliver a warning. Mr. Obama went on stage and outlined his proposal to reduce deficits — but not before he flayed the Ryan plan, saying its deep tax cuts and deeper spending reductions would harm students, seniors, the disabled and the nation. [...]

“My naïveté was thinking, O.K., we’ll put our budget out there first and then he’ll loosen up and start coming to us and we’ll really start talking,” Mr. Ryan recalled. “And what we got was the back of his hand.”

Mr. Ryan bolted from the hall after the speech. Mr. Sperling ran after him to explain that the Obama team had not known he would attend and had not set him up to witness the attack. “You just poisoned the well,” Mr. Ryan snapped.

So there could be no grand bargain with Republicans to do the very serious work of forcing austerity on the nation because Obama hurt Paul Ryan's fee-fees. If Jackie Calmes is to be believed, Republicans would have been there to strike that bargain, if only Obama hadn't slighted Ryan. And the nation would be saved from the terrible deficit. Instead, we learn, Obama has abandoned the issue and has "emphasized job-creation spending and tax cuts more than deficit reduction." Like that's a bad thing.

The Catfood Commission worked. Republicans would have been willing to work with Obama. Social Security is on its last legs. The deficit is more important than jobs and growing the economy. In one article, Calmes hit every Village trope, and managed to reduce what could have been a useful discussion of evolving policy thinking on the economy to a Beltway soap opera. As usual.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Feb 27, 2012 at 08:16 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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