Discuss as:

First Thoughts: Obama and compromise

The C word … Obama and Boehner were speaking to two different audiences … What Obama left out – a veto threat … Can Boehner get to 217? What can pass both chambers? … Huntsman to draw contrasts at Dartmouth, but don’t expect too much red meat … Christie talks education and, curiously, he still can’t seem to compliment the GOP field.

*** Obama and compromise: Nothing better epitomizes the current debt standoff -- as well as the uncertainty of reaching any kind of deal -- than last night’s back-to-back primetime addresses by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. The president spoke in the present tense as if the idea of a "grand bargain" was still possible (watch Obama's speech). Boehner spoke in the past tense regarding the "grand bargain" (watch Boehner's speech). Both speeches seemed more about framing the "blame game" not necessarily for "default," but for who lost the big deal. The thrust of Obama’s speech, especially at the end, was about compromise. “We have tried to live by the words that Jefferson once wrote: ‘Every man cannot have his way in all things -- without this mutual disposition, we are disjointed individuals, but not a society,’” Obama said. “History is scattered with the stories of those who held fast to rigid ideologies and refused to listen to those who disagreed. But those are not the Americans we remember. We remember the Americans who put country above self, and set personal grievances aside for the greater good.”

*** Boehner and my way or the highway: But if Obama’s was about compromise, Boehner’s was anything but. He urged the passage of the House legislation he has introduced (which would raise the debt ceiling in two stages). “If the president signs it, the ‘crisis’ atmosphere he has created will simply disappear. The debt limit will be raised.  Spending will be cut by more than one trillion dollars, and a serious, bipartisan committee of the Congress will begin the hard but necessary work of dealing with the tough challenges our nation faces.” Our recent NBC/WSJ poll summed up these two divergent views: Large majorities of Democrats and independents said they wanted their leaders to compromise, while a majority of Republicans said they wanted GOP leaders to hold their ground. Thus the current impasse. The president was speaking to those independents last night with talk of fairness, quoting Ronald Reagan (and citing a bipartisan list of presidents) and this line: “The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government.” Boehner, though, was speaking to Republicans. It's one of the main differences between this standoff and the Clinton-Gingrich standoff in '95. During the '95 shutdown fight, both parties were trying to win over independents, speaking to the same group of voters. That is NOT the case with this standoff.

*** Flashback to December: Boehner's known this since he became speaker that he doesn't have a power base in the House that will let him compromise. In fact, this impasse was foreshadowed in Boehner’s “60 Minutes” interview in December:

J. BOEHNER: We have to govern. That's what we were elected to do.
STAHL (on camera): But governing means a -- compromising.
J. BOEHNER: It means working together. It means find...
STAHL: It also means compromising.
J. BOEHNER: It means finding common ground.
STAHL: OK, is that compromising?
J. BOEHNER: I made clear I am not going to compromise on -- on my principles, nor am I going to compromise...
STAHL: What are you saying?
J. BOEHNER: ... the will of the American people.
STAHL: And you're saying I want common ground, but I'm not going to compromise. I don't understand that. I really don't.
J. BOEHNER: When you say the -- when you say the word "compromise"...
STAHL: Yeah?
J. BOEHNER: ... a lot of Americans look up and go, "Uh-oh, they're going to sell me out." And so finding common ground I think makes more sense.

*** Obama didn’t say “veto”: Yet when you don’t compromise, you often get the other side to move closer and closer to your position, as we’re currently seeing in this debt-ceiling fight. And in his speech last night, Obama never said he’d veto Boehner’s legislation if it gets to his desk. As Major Garrett writes in National Journal: “If Republican leaders were sifting through Obama's speech for one word it was ‘veto.’ Its absence gives Obama, Boehner, and the Senate room to maneuver if, as now appears likely, Boehner's bill squeaks through the House and arrives in the Senate as a viable, though less-than-optimal, alternative to default.” The fact is this: whatever gets through Congress, the president will sign. The president is not going to own default by vetoing anything so close to Aug. 2. But, what can get through both chambers?

*** Can Boehner get 217? But it's an open question if Boehner's legislation can get 217 House votes for passage, especially when members of his own party -- like Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan -- are opposing it. "The fact that it doesn't really push the envelope on a balanced budget amendment, doesn't send it to the states, that makes it very difficult for a guy like me to support raising the debt ceiling to such high and new levels," Chaffetz said in an interview yesterday, per NBC's Frank Thorp, "I just, I have a very difficult time with that." Chaffetz also opposes the legislation's creation of a committee to deal with entitlements and taxes. "We have a bipartisan commission; it's called the United States Congress -- the House and the Senate," he said, "We're supposed to be doing our jobs, we don't need a commission." Some GOP leadership aides believe the president's speech last night actually helped them convince some skeptical Republican members whose instinct is to vote against ANY deal to consider helping Boehner on this bill. Still, they will have very little help from Democrats on this round of voting. One of the sweeteners the leadership is including in the Boehner plan is another vote on a Balanced-Budget Amendment, but what form of the BBA? One that includes a super-majority for taxes (which then has ZERO chance in the Senate) or a clean one that has a chance in the Senate but then is harder for some House GOP conservatives to support?

*** Does the base like its steak medium-well? At his speech (and Q-and-A) at a Dartmouth lecture series today, expect that, Jon Huntsman, with a new campaign manager on board, will continue to try and draw a sharper contrast between his record as governor of Utah, the president’s, and that of other GOP opponents (like, say, Mitt Romney). BUT don’t expect too much red meat. The aim of the former China ambassador’s speech, according to the Boston Globe, is to “address key US foreign policy priorities, including the US-China relationship.” Huntsman is staking a good deal of his campaign on New Hampshire, where he has hired “nearly two dozen paid staffers,” AP reports. It could “end up being the largest paid GOP primary operation in state history,” AP writes. He’s going to need a concerted effort there, because Huntsman has barely registered in the polls and Romney has sizable leads in the polls. Beginning last week, he started to take a tougher tone, but he needs to start breaking through -- and soon.

*** On the 2012 trail: Pawlenty and Santorum make several campaign stops in Iowa… Huntsman, in New Hampshire, speaks at Dartmouth Lecture Series… And Gingrich conducts a series of radio interviews.

NBC's Domenico Montanaro looks at the budding rivalry between Republican presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty and what it means to the campaign.

*** Christie talks education in Iowa: By the way, the Des Moines Register wraps Chris Christie’s day in Iowa yesterday. “New Jersey residents are spending tens of thousands of dollars per student each year yet are seeing failing results in key parts of their state, Gov. Chris Christie told Iowa educators Monday… The nation can find unity in the goal to invest in education, but the bigger question is how to best spend the money to get results, Christie said. He encouraged Iowans to embrace such options as school choice. ‘Everyone in New Jersey and I suspect everyone in Iowa wants to invest in our children's future, so let's put a stop to it, the hyperbole about who likes and dislikes public education,’ Christie said.” Notably, Christie was more conciliatory to this group of educators than he is back home in New Jersey, the L.A. Times points out. And he said he wasn’t sure if he will endorse anyone and that “no candidate to date has excited him enough to do it,” the L.A. Times writes. "To get there I have to feel that way about one of the people offering themselves for president," Christie said. "If that moment comes, I certainly won't keep it a secret." That’s pretty telling. We’ll stop wondering if Christie is still thinking about running in 2012, when he stops lamenting the field and starts complimenting it.

***Tuesday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer react to last night’s dueling speeches… Charlie Cook and Stu Rothenberg map out how Republicans could retake the Senate majority and which races Democrats are counting on to thwart that… NBC’s Luke Russert, AP’s Liz Sidoti and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza break down debt dealings and 2012 headlines, including the latest in Pawlenty v. Bachmann.

*** Tuesday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” lineup: Meanwhile, Andrea Mitchell interviews GOP Sen. Bob Corker, Dem Rep. John Larson and Obama budget director Jack Lew for her shows, which begins airing at 1:00 pm ET.

Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for GOP senators: 14 days
Countdown to Iowa GOP straw poll: 18 days
Countdown to Wisconsin recall general for Dem senators: 21 days
Countdown to NV-2 and NY-9 special elections: 49 days
Countdown to Election Day 2011: 105 days
Countdown to the Iowa caucuses: 195 days
* Note: When the IA caucuses take place depends on whether other states move up

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @brookebrower.