Michael Barone
They're flailing. That's the impression I get from watching Barack Obama and his White House over the past week.

Things haven't gone as they expected. The House Republicans were supposed to cave in on the sequester, as they did on the fiscal cliff at the beginning of the year.

They would be so desperate to avoid the sequester's mandatory defense cuts, the theory went, that they would agree to higher taxes (through closing loopholes) on high earners.

But the Republicans didn't deal. They decided to take the sequester cuts and make them the basis for a continuing resolution funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

Obama responded by threatening all sorts of dire consequences -- Head Start kids left out in the snow, airline security lines as far as the eye can see.

Republicans would take the blame, the Obama folks believed. Polls showed they were far less popular than the president.

Then on Tuesday it was announced that White House tours were cancelled. The sequester meant there wasn't enough money to host those high school kids from Waverly, Iowa.

Suddenly, it became apparent that it was Obama's poll numbers that were falling. Not to the level of congressional Republicans' admittedly dreadful numbers. But enough that the Quinnipiac poll -- whose 2012 numbers tilted a bit toward Democrats -- showed him with only 45 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval.

Then the president who doesn't like spending much time with even Democratic members of Congress suddenly invited 12 Republican senators to dinner at the Jefferson Hotel. He even paid out of his own pocket!

And on Thursday, he invited House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and ranking Democrat Chris Van Hollen to lunch at the White House.

This is the same Paul Ryan whom Obama insulted after inviting him to a presidential speech at George Washington University. Presumably the lunch was insult-free.

Meanwhile, a top White House aide was dispatched to make Obama's case to a heavily Republican audience.

The message coming from the White House seems to be that Obama has made concessions, including spending cuts, and is really, sincerely interested in a grand bargain with Republicans on entitlements.

He has already, the argument goes, agreed to using the chained CPI -- an inflation measure that produces lower cost-of-living adjustments to entitlement and other programs.

For this, he's taken some heat from Democrats. So Republicans should understand that he is dealing in good faith and should be willing to agree to increased revenues by removing tax preferences for high earners.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM