So what does Obama propose? Well nothing so simple as his own party’s highly popular political platform for this president. He’s too smart for that. Rather, as Ezra Klein points out,, Obama’s deficit reduction plan, while not quite as brutal as the Republican Ryan plan, is even more conservative than the Simpson-Bowles plan, which was itself deeply conservative. He calls for raising less money in new taxes and far smaller cuts in the defense budget, chasing the Republicans into territory that is well to the right of anything even Ronald Reagan dared propose before his 1980 shellacking of Jimmy Carter.

Carter, as it happens, took much the same path. Turning his back on O’Neil, his party and its primary constituencies, he accepted the Republican argument that the only way to solve the country’s economic problems was to attack the deficit. He would later explain to a group of political scientists after leaving the presidency, “A lot of my advisers, including Rosalyn, used to argue with me about my decision to move ahead with a project when it was obviously not going to be politically advantageous, or to encourage me to postpone it until a possible second term and so forth. It was just contrary to my nature…I just couldn’t do it. Once I made a decision I was awfully stubborn about it.”

Sound like any presidents you know?