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More On Obama And The Grand Bipartisan Deficit Deal

To follow up on my item from yesterday, I'm not completely dismissive of the chance of a big bipartisan deficit deal. If House Republicans decide they really want to cut a deal -- if they're overcome by concern about deficits and decide to put their public-spirited concerns over their political self-interest -- they can cut a deal. It's certainly possible. The closer one gets to the Washington establishment, the deeper one drinks from the deficit-centric ethos that prevails among the capitol's elite. Republicans are more resistant to this cultural immersion than Democrats, but they're not immune. John Boehner may decide that a grand deficit bargain is the pinnacle of his career and worth potential risking his leadership position over. Unlikely, but possible.

What's not in the realm of possibility is forcing House Republicans to support a deal even if they don't want to. That's a fantasy. And if the Obama administration actually thinks this way, it's disturbing. All the political impetus on the House GOP will drive them away from any bargain. The base will hate a deal. The conservative interest groups will hate a deal. Sheer political self-interest -- denying Obama the chance to command the center and take the GOP's strongest critique off the table -- will also militate against a deal.

Obama should leave himself open to a bargain. But he can't put himself in a position where Republican refusal to cooperate is his problem, because that refusal to cooperate is the most likely outcome.