Politico's take on yesterday's meeting between President Obama and House GOP leaders:
President Barack Obama and House Republicans clashed in a meeting Thursday afternoon over how soon the government can be reopened, even as the GOP offered to lift the debt limit for six weeks, according to sources familiar with the session.According to this report and others, President Obama remained firm in his view that Republicans are not entitled to demand a ransom simply for carrying out their basic responsibility to end the government shutdown and to avoid forcing the country into default.
House Republicans told Obama at the White House that they could reopen the federal government by early next week if the president and Senate Democrats agree to their debt-ceiling proposal. After the debt ceiling is lifted, a House GOP aide said they would seek some additional concessions in a government funding bill.
Obama repeatedly pressed House Republicans to open the government, asking them “what’s it going to take to” end the shutdown, those sources said. He questioned why the government should remain closed if both sides agreed to engage in good-faith negotiations on the budget, according to a Democratic source briefed on the meeting.
The central premise of Obama's position is that nobody should be setting preconditions for things as basic as keeping government open and avoiding fiscal calamity. He's not against negotiating, but he is against negotiating by ransom demand. From a process point of view, that's an unassailable position, because Obama is not asking Republicans to make any concessions at all—except to stop manufacturing hostage crises in order to get their way.
Not only is President Obama not asking for Republicans to make any concessions, he's already agreed to accept their numbers for the temporary measure funding government. But instead of accepting his offer to continue negotiating fiscal issues without shutting down the government or threatening default, Republicans decided to try out Ted Cruz's doomed scheme to defund Obamacare.
As the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll numbers show, the Republican decision was a miserable failure. Obamacare is now more popular than it was before the shutdown and Republicans have become the least popular political party in history.
The one sliver of good news for Republicans is that President Obama has not withdrawn his offer to negotiate once they reopen government and stop threatening default. If he were half as power-hungry as they claim, he'd be twisting the knife right now, demanding something in exchange for letting them escape the trap they set for themselves. Instead, he's maintaining the same principled position he's had from the beginning.
The strange thing is that even after nearly two weeks of evidence have piled up showing that Republicans are making an enormous political mistake, they still can't bring themselves to save face and accept the president's proposal. If they want to get out of the situation they're in, the solution is simple: Just reopen government, take default off the table, and get back to doing things the way there are supposed to be done.
For better or worse, President Obama can't save Republicans. But he has given them every opportunity in the world to avoid their predicament. Now, the decision is up to them. They are the only ones who can choose to save themselves.