He explained at some length during his press conference Friday morning. In short form, he wants to take the deficit issue off the table:
Obama’s argument is that progressives won’t be able to make the case to the public for more spending unless the deficit is neutralized as an issue. The idea seems to be that once Republicans and Democrats buy into a bipartisan plan that reduces the deficit, voters will more open when Dems propose government investment in our economy, infrastructure and future. They won’t be as easily distracted every time Republicans shout, “Boo, Big Government Liberal.”
I think this is hopelessly naive, and it’s hard to imagine anyone in his target audience accepting this as a serious, realistic strategy. Some, like lizpolaris at Corrente, don’t even believe it’s sincere:
Here’s a newsflash – even if Obama gets his ‘big deal’ passed, the deficit, debt, economy, and recession are not going to be fixed overnight. So the idea that the case can be made to anyone that our house is magically in order, when in reality it will take some time for that to be proved out, is ridiculous. Clearly, the same ‘big spending, more government’ arguments are staples of the right wing which aren’t going to be waved away with one deal.
Obama, being not a complete fool, must know that. It’s patently absurd to think that he can negotiate this deal and voila! the Republicans will vote for expanded spending and tax hikes later. Therefore, it’s reasonable to conclude that his arguments are meant only to push the propaganda to Democrats and the left that he’s doing the best he can under the circumstances, which are so difficult dontcha know, and democrats should just go along with him because they should. It seems a transparent attempt to shove through cuts to SS, Medicare, and Medicaid that he wants while setting up excuses for why he has to cave in a give up tax increases. Oh, it’s the bullies that are trying to shut down the government, not me.
I don’t agree on that point — I think Obama truly believes what he says. I think Obama’s conviction that if he is reasonable and rational, makes a sincere effort to understand and accommodate the other side’s point of view, and is flexible and willing to meet people halfway, then good things will happen is in his DNA. No amount or degree of evidence gleaned from the behavior of those he is trying to work with, that these premises are invalid, will persuade him to believe that they are, in fact, invalid.
The fact that Obama does think and operate this way is something he made clear throughout his campaign, and in truth it’s what drew many people to support him and vote for him — myself very much included. It’s a quality I value — the desire to find commonalities and connections between seemingly very different people and circumstances. It’s the fact that he cannot (apparently) set aside or at least revise or modify this approach in contexts and situations where it clearly isn’t working that troubles me. Obama appears to believe that reconciliation and good faith will win the day in every case, and there isn’t ANY approach to any problem in life that will work in every instance. It’s ironic and counterintuitive, but seems to be true, that Obama is inflexible in his commitment to flexibility — his belief in bipartisanship and coming together for the common good is so rigidly held that even when the current Republican leadership demonstrates over and over again that they reject, and always will reject, that approach, he cannot give it up.
Crooks and Liars has an excellent roundup of reaction and commentary on this story.