More times than I would like, I have turned to the Washington Post's editorial page to illustrate classic "false equivalence" thinking. E.g.: one party filibusters all nominations; therefore "both sides" are to blame for jobs going unfilled. Last month I mentioned a WaPo pinnacle of this mentality.
Yes (the essay itself says), the Republicans are wrong in their extremism, and in their refusal to consider any increase in taxes, and in their willingness to filibuster anything. And, yes, the president has been offering compromises, in atmospherics and in substance. But still all sides are necessarily to blame for a partisan stand-off. And the president could solve this mess if he decided to "govern." The payoff of the column, in the form of an open-letter appeal to the president:
And beyond politics, on many of the biggest challenges you're going to need ideas from Column A and Column B... [Y]ou can't solve the debt challenge without raising more revenue and controlling entitlement costs... Eventually, in other words, you're going to have to wheel and deal and compromise -- you're going to have to govern. It might as well be now.
OK. Let's suppose you believed this. What, exactly, does it mean? What does Obama do tomorrow? Or, better, "today"?
- Does he propose a budget plan modeled on ideas from revered centrists like Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, or Robert Rubin? Oh, wait, he's already done that.
- Does he propose dealing with entitlement reforms? Oh, wait, that was in the State of the Union address.
How about if you, WaPo, try setting out what you consider a "balanced" package of budget reforms -- and then, after giving the details, see if the Administration and the House Republicans agree. My money is on the administration saying, let's look at this, and the House Republicans saying, No. And then ... what? The twin reflexes of D.C. centrist thinking are assuming (a) that a president can "lead" or "govern" his way out of any corner, and (b) that [except for provision (a)] you can't ever really declare one side in a dispute "wrong." Therefore this scenario would presumably end with another plea to the president to "take control."