Let’s assume you’re a normal person. And let’s propose a scenario in which, after years of gridlock between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, the GOP finally seems to be willing to give a little — now that they’ve definitively lost the last two presidential elections and polling appears to be mostly on the side of Democratic policies.
In such a situation, you’d probably welcome the prospect of a Republican thaw and assume it may help produce actual bipartisan legislation for once, no?
Well, no. Not if you’re the New York Times:
But the politics of one core dispute between Democrats and Republicans — what to do about Medicare — are changing. And some of those changes complicate President Obama’s agenda, even as he continues to flex his postelection muscle.
One shift is the shrinking magnitude of the Medicare spending problem — a consequence, at least for now, of a recent slowdown in the rise of health care costs. That diminishes the willingness of Congressional Democrats, and perhaps the administration, too, to accept the sort of Medicare curbs that Mr. Obama has indicated that he favors.
Another is a moderation in the public stance of Republican leaders. In recent weeks, they have advocated smaller changes to Medicare than the “premium support” or voucher plan that Mitt Romney advocated and that Mr. Obama denounced in last year’s presidential campaign.
As a result, Mr. Obama’s ability to deliver a bipartisan compromise on entitlement spending may be waning even as Republicans edge closer to one.
That’s right: Republican moderation is partly why President Obama may be unable to “deliver a bipartisan compromise.” If that sounds ridiculously counterintuitive, it’s because it is.
Yes, I realize the point of the article: that Obama and the Democrats now feel they have the upper hand, which might make them likelier to press their advantage while they have it — thus derailing the hope of a deal. (Never mind the fact that there is virtually no historical/empirical basis to support the notion that the Democrats have taken, or will ever take, advantage of whatever leverage they have.)
But this contorted logic only makes any sense in the context of the conventional wisdom that major media players like the New York Times help create. Mainstream journalists love to mock bloggy sites like Politico for their seeming giddiness in reporting on Washington insider politics, and yet this article — appearing in the Paper of Record, no less — is Beltway cynicism at its worst.
Maybe if the Times focused less on creating counter-incentives that don’t yet exist and exerted more effort instead on sensible reporting of actual political developments, we wouldn’t have so many of these manufactured crises in the first place.