Presidents are never irrelevant, unless they choose to make themselves so.  And even when a President starts spouting tax policy that the opposition party in the House absolutely rejects, as well as a significant portion of his own party in the Senate, he carries quite a bit of weight.  In fact, it can start resembling an anchor:

As if expectations were not low enough for the special Congressional committee charged with writing a deficit-reduction deal, they seem to be falling by the day as the two parties harden their positions on spending and taxes.

Last week began with contradictory markers from President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner. Mr. Boehner reiterated that Republicans would oppose any tax increases, and then Mr. Obama, newly aggressive, warned that he would veto any measure that would trim Medicare benefits without also raising taxes on the wealthy. …

Against that backdrop, few in Washington see a politically realistic way for the 12 members of the joint House-Senate deficit committee, six from each party, to meet their mandate to identify at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions over 10 years. People in both parties worry that the panel, which plans to meet privately this week, could fall far short of that goal or deadlock altogether, with potentially damaging economic consequences.

Remember the heady days of “hope and change”?  That was Obama’s argument that only he could change the way Washington worked as an outsider with few obligations to the Establishment.  How voters bought that notion from a Chicago Machine politician is a matter for future psychiatrists and comedians, but Obama’s jerk to the Left and the embrace of old class-warfare arguments and policies appear to have derailed any serious attempt to curtail deficits, at least for the short term.

In order to avoid the disastrous cuts to defense spending, it’s likely that John Boehner would have had to accept some “revenue increases” in exchange for discretionary spending cuts, and Democrats would have had to absorb more cuts than they wanted to protect Medicare.  The deal cut in August put those onerous consequences of failure on the backs of both parties in order to encourage an everyone-hates-it-equally deal in November.  Thanks to Obama’s grandstanding, Boehner can’t back down on revenue increases, and Harry Reid can’t give way on any significant cuts other than the phantom cuts outlined in Obama’s plan, without either giving the appearance of having caved in the negotiations.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) rightly notes that Obama had another path open to him — comprehensive tax reform rather than class-warfare attacks on the wealthy.  Comprehensive tax reform could raise revenue by broadening the tax base while lowering the rates by flattening the personal and corporate tax codes, giving both sides political wins.  Boehner even offered revenue increases of $800 billion over ten years with this strategy in mid-summer.

Instead of reaching across the aisle, Obama derailed the negotiations then, and he’s derailing them now by insisting on raising taxes as a recession approaches — or perhaps has already arrived.  That’s neither hope nor change, but demagoguery and obstructionism.