July 13th, 2011
09:05 AM ET

Gergen: Why Obama's pushing for a mega-deal

Editor's note: David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four presidents. He is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

(CNN) - With a debt-ceiling crisis building in Washington, the administration on Tuesday opened another window into President Obama's thinking about the best ways to bring resolution.

On Monday, I wrote a piece arguing that the major players in the debt negotiations have all painted themselves into corners.

The Republicans were the first to lock themselves in, signing pledges during their campaigns promising not to raise taxes - period. Democrats insist they won't accept any deal that doesn't have significant new revenues. And Obama on Monday promised to kill any compromise that is short term. If we are to avert a default, I wrote, all three parties must find ways out of their corners and compromise.

On Tuesday, a high-ranking official familiar with the president's thinking explained to me why Obama's opposition to a short-term solution makes sense. He made some persuasive points, though I still think that Obama may need some wiggle room before this is over.

The president clearly sees himself as the man in the middle trying to pull off a historic grand bargain. So far, he thinks that while Democrats will strongly resist, they would ultimately go along with entitlement reforms as a way to get a mega-package of some $4 trillion in savings over 10 years. There is give on their side, he believes. But there are no Bob Doles and Pete Domenicis on the Republican side willing to show similar flexibility on taxes.

With prospects dimming for a mega-deal, the president is driving hard to ensure that whatever agreement emerges will keep the country below a new debt ceiling until February 2013. The administration calculates that it will need to raise the current debt ceiling between $2.5 trillion and $2.7 trillion to get to that point.

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