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An odd approach to compromise

We'll explore President Obama's budget in more detail a little later, but before we do, I wanted to flag House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) appearance on MSNBC this morning, because there was one exchange in particular that struck me as interesting (via Travis Waldron).

Dee Dee Myers asked the congressman a good question: "Congressman, you mentioned chained CPI. That's obviously something President Obama put on the table that the base does not like. It is, the White House is telling the people it's a sign they're willing to put something forward to compromise. What are you willing to put on the table that your base won't like?" Here's Ryan's response, in its entirety:

"We put up budget that balances. We've said here how you fundamentally restructure Medicaid, Medicare. We've put lots of these things in there. The 'base,' I mean look, we represent seniors as well. We think Medicare reform is the best way to go to save this program. So, there are a lot of things we've done. The fiscal cliff was not real popular, I would add. So we, Republicans, have already done things to move to the middle, to get to common ground, that have not been entirely popular. But we have not seen reciprocal moves on the other side of the aisle. Hopefully, today, we'll see something of a change of heart on that."

In other words, nothing. Obama is drawing fire from the left for putting forward concessions intended to reach a compromise, and asked what kind of concessions he'd consider that conservatives may not like, Ryan can't think of literally anything.

His examples of the GOP moving to the middle -- privatizing Medicare out of existence, gutting Medicaid, prioritizing deficit reduction above jobs and the economy -- are not examples of the GOP moving to the middle at all. For that matter, they're certainly not examples of Ryan willing to disappoint his party's right-wing base in the interest of bipartisan compromise.

This is no small detail. On the one hand, we have the Obama White House proposing some policies Democrats hate, hoping to reach an agreement. On the other, we have House Republicans proposing policies the far-right loves, and pretending they're examples of moderation.

We're left with the same old dynamic: the GOP defines compromise by telling Obama to give Republicans what they want, in exchange for nothing.