Breaking the pattern of presumably frosty phone calls only, President Obama and Speaker Boehner continued in their recent it’s-just-you-and-me-now, closed-off-from-the-public communications but actually met in person (and in private) at the White House on Sunday.
The president and the speaker met Sunday afternoon at the White House for the first time in weeks. It came after Boehner publicly chided Obama on Friday for the lack of progress to date, accusing the president of having “wasted another week.”
Both sides were tightlipped about the surprise Sunday afternoon meeting. But instead of emerging from the talks complaining about each other, as was the case following phone calls last week, each side released an identical statement.
“This afternoon, the President and Speaker Boehner met at the White House to discuss efforts to resolve the fiscal cliff. We’re not reading out details of the conversation, but the lines of communication remain open,” the statement released by each office said.
And from Boehner‘s office:
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), would not share details “about the substance” of the conversations with the White House, but noted that House Republican leadership is waiting for Obama to “identify the spending cuts he’s willing to make as part of the ‘balanced’ approach he promised the American people.”
The Speaker’s office noted that the GOP offer to bring in $800 billion in new revenue via closing tax loopholes still stands, but didn’t mention anything about tax-rate hikes. With the state of the “negotiations” we’ve seen so far, I’m rather inclined to think that maybe they’ve just decided to arm-wrestle over the whole thing, but perhaps Boehner’s trying to convince Obama that going in for some serious entitlement reform and spending cuts would behoove him and the Democrats as well, via the Weekly Standard:
A new poll conducted by Politico/GWU/Battleground finds that 76 percent of Americans favor “Cutting government spending across the board.”
Fifty-nine percent of Americans registered to vote strongly favor the “across the board” cuts and 17 percent “somewhat” favor the cuts. Only 13 percent strongly oppose “across the board” spending cuts, and 10 percent “somewhat” oppose the cuts. Two percent are unsure.
Sixty-five percent of Americans registered to vote are in favor of greater taxes on corporations, while 33 percent are against them. And only 29 percent favor taxing “small businesses that earn more than $250,000, while 69 percent are against these sorts of taxes.
But, as Jenn Rubin points out, the poll isn’t really saying anything new, and more than anything explains why President Obama is so eager to not address entitlements — doing so would acknowledge that we have a direly serious budget problem that his proposed solution won’t come anywhere close to fixing.
In other words, the American people want cake and ice cream for dinner – and a unicorn. They want contradictory things. They imagine the only taxes that need go up to sustain the entitlement programs as currently constituted are those of mega-millionaires. They don’t perceive the trade-offs between unrestrained entitlement spending and pressure to cut other spending (e.g., education). They apparently don’t understand that many small businesses pay taxes under the personal income tax code, making them “the rich.”
… It is that [politicians] do not want, as President Obama keeps instructing, to do the math. If they did, they’d have to concede, for example, that raising taxes on the rich raises a pittance compared to our $16 trillion debt. In particular — and this is critical in assessing the president’s moral obligation — Obama has not prepared the American people for the fiscal changes that are needed. He’d rather score political points than be honest with voters. He’s got the biggest megaphone and if he doesn’t level with voters, they aren’t going to get it. (So he doesn’t. And they don’t.)
Update: It seems that the involved parties are hyper-determined to keep quiet whatever options Boehner and Obama might be discussing:
The White House wouldn’t offer any new details Monday on the weekend meeting between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, as press secretary Jay Carney defended keeping the content of the talks private.
“I can confirm that there was a meeting and that lines of communication remain open, but I cannot characterize the talks, the conversations beyond that,” Carney said during a gaggle aboard Air Force One en route to a Michigan event where Obama will make his case for his approach to the fiscal cliff, and herald the creation of new jobs in the auto industry. …
“Our interest is in seeing if we can reach an agreement, and not trying to negotiate an agreement through the media,” he said.