Chief New York Times 'Caucus' blog writer Michael Shear hosted the latest edition of the paper's 'Caucus' podcast, posted at nytimes.com on Friday, where he, political reporter Jeff Zeleny, and White House reporter Mark Landler agreed that Republican candidate Michele Bachmann was wrong to dismiss concerns about possible financial consequences resulting from a failure to raise the debt ceiling.
About four and a half minutes from the end, Landler took sides in the budget-cutting battle, emphasizing how far Obama had come toward the Republican position with 'very significant cuts,' and sympathized with the president's 'frustration' over the 'unreasonable' 'intransigence of the Republicans.' (You can listen to the minute-long audio clip here .)
Mark Landler: "And it's also worth pointing out that the president and Democrats are putting some very significant cuts on the table. There's talk of somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion, $1.7 trillion in cuts in all kinds of discretionary spending, in the Pentagon budget. The president has put Medicare on the table, which is not something that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are happy about. He's even talked about looking at Social Security, albeit he's been very vague and careful to say he won't do anything to really change the program in a fundamental way. So the fact of the matter is the Republicans had already gotten the administration a long way toward making really a historic deal that they could have held up as a real victory, or could still hold up. And I think the frustration the president has, is 'Look, I've come three-quarters the way to your position, and you're not willing to give me that last 25 percent that I can use to say to Democrats there is something in this for you.' So I think the intransigence of the Republicans is really beginning to wear on him and just strikes him as more and more unreasonable."
Of course, Obama's 'very significant cuts' are so far just rhetorical; they have yet to be put in writing and remain vague. It's pretty nervy to describe Obama as being frustrated with the G.O.P., given how he and the Democrats have gone so long without seriously engaging the issue of budget cuts (if they are in fact serious this time) while the Republicans have offered specifics.