I think Ezra’s missing the obvious here. Despite results that indicate otherwise, it’s pretty clear that Obama just thinks he… knows better, he’s got a bit of a martyr complex and he thinks all that messy partisan fighting is just too icky for words:
The outcome of yesterday’s long-awaited powwow between President Obama and the Republican congressional leadership was a plan for further powwows — these helmed by OMB director Jack Lew and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and including one negotiator from both parties from both chambers — meant to get past the impasse over the Bush tax cuts. Which is to say, the White House just took ownership of this process. A bad deal is now their bad deal. A failure to reach a deal is now their failure to reach a deal. And one of those outcomes is probably more likely than a great deal that somehow makes everyone happy.
The White House could’ve left this to Congress and simply run against — and vetoed — any outcomes they didn’t like. That they’re inserting themselves this directly is surprising considering that many in the building believe the legislator-in-chief role Obama assumed over the last two years yoked them to congressional dealmaking and sunk their popularity. It suggests, actually, that this approach is encoded deeper in the administration’s DNA than some previously thought.