In order to understand the status of the secluster talks, you only need to review the official transcript of the meeting this morning between the President and the Republican leadership. The text makes it crystal clear that we are in for an entertaining and economically painful few months.
From the White House: Summary from meeting today between Congressional leaders and the President on the Secluster cuts scheduled to take effect today:
Obama: Thank you for coming. We need to stop the secluster. It is bad for America and a dumb way to govern.
Boehner and McConnell: We are happy to be here. As far as the secluster, you started it.
Obama: I suggested spending cut triggers that would be so distasteful to both parties that a grand bargain on deficit reduction would be reached. I wrongly predicted that the threat of these draconian cuts would force a compromise. I was wrong.
Boehner and McConnell: Yes you were wrong.
Obama: I just said that.
Boehner and McConnell: And we agree. We are agreeable.
Obama: So let’s replace the sequester cuts with a balanced plan that addresses spending and revenue. We can include Republican ideas and Democratic ideas.
Boehner and McConnell: Why won’t you lead?
Obama: I am trying to do just that. The American people voted for me in November. I campaigned on a platform of a balanced approach to deficit reduction. I am trying to fulfill that promise.
Boehner and McConnell: No you are not. You are a tax and spend liberal.
Obama: No I’m not.
Boehner and McConnell: Yes you are.
Obama: I think it was the Republican Party that approved of fighting two wars and adding a prescription drug benefit without asking for any revenue offsets.
Boehner and McConnell: You are mischaracterizing our limited government principles in action.
Obama: Look, are you guys willing to compromise?
Boehner and McConnell: Yes, we are not obstructionists.
Boehner and McConnell: We will compromise by offering to double the amount of tax increases we have already offered.
Obama: But you have offered zero tax increases.
Boehner and McConnell: Fine, then we’ll triple it. We can be reasonable. If you don’t accept that, you are the obstructionist. Why won’t you compromise?
Obama: What about closing tax loopholes? Governor Romney campaigned on a platform of closing unnecessary tax loopholes as one way of getting our balance sheet in order.
Boehner and McConnell: Closing loopholes is a tax increase. That is bad.
Obama: So Romney campaigned for a tax increase?
Boehner and McConnell: No, he campaigned to close loopholes that unfairly benefit the 47% takers in society.
Obama: But if it is a loophole, it is by definition something that circumvents the intent of the actual tax law that was passed.
Boehner and McConnell: We support the rule of law. Tax loopholes are in the law. If you want to close loopholes, you do not respect the law. Why do you hate America?
Obama: I don’t hate America. I am trying to find a balanced approach that protects America for the long term without sacrificing our short term economic needs.
Boehner and McConnell: The secluster was your plan to gut our military and make America weak.
Obama: Actually, I suggested automatic tax increases as the trigger if a deal wasn’t reached, and your side said, “No, let’s use defense cuts.”
Boehner and McConnell: No we didn’t.
Obama: Yes, you did.
Boehner and McConnell: We are rubber and you are glue.
Obama: Gentlemen, this meeting is going nowhere.
Boehner and McConnell: We are waiting for you to lead us.
Obama: OK, then I will lead you to accept a balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes revenue increases, targeted investments, and spending cuts. The polls all show that the country is with me on this.
Boehner and McConnell: Stop campaigning and lead.
Obama: Let’s try another approach. What do you suggest that we cut from the budget to replace the secluster?
Boehner and McConnell: Spending.
Obama: What spending?
Boehner and McConnell: Government spending.
Obama: What specific type of government spending do you recommend we cut?
Boehner and McConnell: Wasteful government spending.
Obama: What government spending is wasteful, in your opinion?
Boehner and McConnell: Spending money we do not have.
Obama: Look, will you get specific?
Boehner and McConnell: In this time of crisis, we need you to eliminate uncertainty.
Obama: That’s what I’m trying to do!
Boehner and McConnell: We are not certain you want to remove uncertainty.
Obama: It’s time we stop managing our nation’s business from one self-inflicted crisis to the next. It is not what the people have sent us here to do.
Boehner and McConnell: We don’t like leading by crisis. You do. Why are you always scaring people with phony crises?
Obama: Explaining the impact of the secluster is not scaring people. In fact, you have used the same language I have to describe the impact of the cuts.
Boehner and McConnell: No we didn’t. You created this crisis. That’s what liberals do. Stop leading us into crisis after crisis.
Obama: So you admit I am leading?
Boehner and McConnell: Stay away from our guns.
Obama: I thought we were talking about the secluster.
Boehner and McConnell: Because of your secluster cuts, we will need more guns.
Obama: Now you are using fear to scare people.
Boehner and McConnell: Explaining the impact of the secluster is not scaring people. It’s called defending liberty.
Obama: I think this meeting is over.
Boehner and McConnell: We are sorry that you will not agree to compromise and do exactly what we propose. We are trying to lead since you will not.
Obama: Doing whatever you want is following, not leading.
Boehner and McConnell: We think this meeting is over.
Obama: I’m not sure it ever started.
Boehner and McConnell: Thank you for seeing us. Would you mind leading us out?