Obama has a house for sale, and his asking price is $300,000. He is facing an opponent (the hardline wing of the House Republican party) who is offering $1,000 and threatening to blow up the house if there is no deal. Obama isn’t saying he won’t negotiate. He’s saying he’ll only negotiate once the offering price is something plausible, say $200,000, and the threat to blow up the house is off the table.
Imagine that Putin stepped forward tomorrow morning and announced that Russia had developed a computer virus that would shut down the market for U.S. Treasuries and that he would release that virus unless Obama agreed to a list of Russian demands.
No one would say Russia was asking for negotiations with Obama. They would say Russia was holding the U.S. economy hostage and demanding that Obama pay a ransom. No Republican — and no Democrat — would advice Obama to take that meeting. The sole question would be prevention and, if necessary, reprisal.
This is the core disagreement between the White House and the Republican Party. The Republican Party thinks it’s offering the White House something it wants — the continued creditworthiness of the United States of America — in return for things the GOP wants, like a one-year delay on Obamacare.
But the White House doesn’t see an increase in the debt limit as something that the Republicans are giving them. As Obama put it in his news conference: “Paying America’s bills is not a concession to me. That’s not doing me a favor.”