John Dickerson took perhaps too long to get to this paragraph, and he wrote it through gritted teeth, but he does put a finger on the central problem for the Obama administration right now:

The substantive differences between the president and Republicans on the budget may be insurmountable, but now it seems like even if the pipe dream of a substantive budget agreement could be reached it wouldn’t be enough. Even if Republican senators can engage in a trust-building exercise with the White House, how can they convince their constituents that the president is offering them a fair deal on the budget? A poisoned well is now roiling. Any Republican who tries to convince their constituents about a deal will now likely get funny looks. Their constituents would wonder why they were engaged in negotiations with an administration that has told evolving stories about its response to the attack in Benghazi and that houses an IRS targeting conservative groups.

And here's the thing: their constituents would be right. The IRS thing is the really bad one, actually, given that it's really really easy to explain that one in terms that everybody gets intuitively. As Joe Klein (absolutely no friend at all of the GOP) notes,"they[*] have violated one of the more sacred rules of our democracy: you do not use the tax code to punish your opponents." And what will compound the problem is that I have precisely zero confidence that the Obama administration will have the good sense to beat the IRS until it's howling for mercy AND conduct a public and messy internal purge of White House staffers. The former is likely; the latter is not. And it's the latter that's going to have to happen if the Obama administration wants to stand down from the current situation.


The Obama administration really should want to stand down from the current situation. They don't want to, but they should want to.

(Links via RCP)

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*"They," to Joe Klein, means "political hacks populating the mid-reaches of this Administration." "They," to me, means "the whole darn executive branch, top to bottom." I'll let my readers decide for themselves which is the more accurate meaning.