President Obama will continue to woo Republicans over meals — and to woo editorial pages that have demanded more schmoozing by releasing vague details about those meals — by lunching with Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday. Obama will talk to Ryan, chairman of the House budget committee, about the process of crafting budget and tax bills, Politico's Glenn Thrush reports. The top Democrat on the committee, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, will join the lunch. Ryan will release the House GOP budget Tuesday.
The details of all these meal meetings are comically scarce. Obama had dinner with a dozen Republican senators at a a "neutral meeting place," the Jefferson Hotel, Wednesday night, and there was confusion over who even paid for the meal. According to the White House pool report, the White House initially would not confirm who was invited or where in the hotel they ate, though a list of attendees was later released. The Obama-Ryan-Van Hollen lunch is similarly cloaked in secrecy. Take this hilarious line in the Associated Press's report on the lunch: "The official requested anonymity in order to discuss the private lunch." Anonymity is necessary even to push the standard White House talking points: "The president's aim is to reach beyond the congressional Republican leadership and build a coalition that will pass a sweeping budget deal that cuts the deficit, raises tax revenue, revises the tax code and shores up Social Security and Medicare, according to White House officials and people familiar with the discussions," the Wall Street Journal reports.
That being said, we can take it as something of a positive that both sides have decided the aura of comity and cooperation is now a public-relations winner, just a week after Obama was giving speeches in front of a variety of human props about the terrible things the sequester would do. "Last night's dinner with President Obama and my Republican colleagues was productive and substantive," Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was at the dinner date, tweeted. "Ready to try to solve the serious long-term budget problem our country faces & can accept failure as an outcome. I cannot accept not trying." Another attendee, Sen. Bob Corker, said on CBS This Morning that the dinner was "useful," "sincere," and "cordial." As he was leaving the dinner, Sen. John McCain gave reporters a thumbs up. Whether that means Obama and Ryan will be able to agree on middle ground between Obama's demand for more tax revenue and Ryan's plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system remains to be seen.