Per Lawrence O’Donnell last evening:

What you are now witnessing is the most masterful rope-a-dope ever performed by a president against an opposition party in Congress. It began months ago… Joe Biden then led negotiations with House Republicans about how to find a compromise position on the White House position of doing nothing but raising the debt ceiling and the Republicans position of cutting $4 trillion in spending while raising the debt ceiling. Biden and House Democrats then rope-a-doped the Republicans into weeks of discussions over trillions of dollars of spending cuts. And during that time, Democrats appeared to be increasingly willing to go along with trillions of dollars of spending cuts — possibly as much as three trillion. Then Biden and the President insisted that there be at least a trillion in tax revenue increases and Republican Eric Cantor fell for the Obama ultimatum and walked out of the talks doing exactly what the President wanted him to do because Cantor was thereby proving to the country once again that President Obama was willing to be much more flexible and reasonable in these negotiations and compromises with Republicans than Republicans were willing to be with the President. Specific policy issues aside, President Obama has already won the public contest of who appears to be more reasonable and he won that weeks ago.”

O’Donnell then predicts that by embracing the Republican’s original demand for a $4T deficit cut, Obama will achieve what he originally asked for, the lifting of the debt limit with no preconditions.

The more President Obama pushes for the $4 trillion package, the more Boehner retreats from it. The President is finally capitalizing on a phenomenon that has been obvious from the start of his presidency: if he is in favor of something then the Republicans are opposed — it’s as simple as that. Here is the President embracing the Republicans number so now the Republicans must be against their own number. This, THIS! is a work of strategic brilliance by the President.

With all due respect, I must note that Lawrence O’Donnell has his head up his ass.

Obama revealed his “original position” four days before his inauguration, namely to make entitlement slashing reform the hallmark of his administration:

Obama Pledges Reform of Social Security, Medicare Programs

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 16, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama pledged yesterday to shape a new Social Security and Medicare “bargain” with the American people, saying that the nation’s long-term economic recovery cannot be attained unless the government finally gets control over its most costly entitlement programs.

That discussion will begin next month, Obama said, when he convenes a “fiscal responsibility summit” before delivering his first budget to Congress. He said his administration will begin confronting the issues of entitlement reform and long-term budget deficits soon after it jump-starts job growth and the stock market.

Obama has already arranged for Pete Peterson to be the keynote speaker at his “fiscal responsibility summit.”

Over the next year, Obama tried two or three times to get Congress to establish his Catfood Commission. Finally he announced its establishment as a “presidential commission.” (It was funded and supported by Pete Peterson.) When that commission failed to reach a consensus, it’s chairs produced the report with the recommendations that Obama and Peterson wanted, and those recommendations are what Obama is bragaining for, a $4T per decade deficit cut that is 85% based on spending cuts, mostly cuts to social services.

The rope-a-dope brilliance is in how Obama is roping the dopes in his own party and pundits like Lawrence O’Donnell.

UPDATE: 7/12 10:30pm PDT: Tonight Lawrence O’Donnell was ready to award Obama both ears and the tail, because McConnell muttered something about letting Obama raise the debt-limit by however much he wants whenever he wants. What O’Donnell fails to understand is that Obama wants exactly what the GOP wants: massive spending cuts mostly to social services. His problem is to minimize the resulting resentment of the middle class, but he’s not doing a very good job of that.

Meanwhile, the conservatives are all over McConnell for his “treachery.” Per TPM:

The verdict is in: conservatives and tea partiers are incensed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to end the debt limit dispute.

McConnell now faces the same kind of angry base President Obama did when he suggested putting entitlements on the table to strike his grand bargain.

The rhetoric on the right opposing McConnell’s scheme couldn’t be more heated.

“It’s Time to Burn Mitch McConnell in Effigy,” read the headline on a post by Red State’s Erick Erickson. He later changed it, writing “I decided to make the title less incendiary.”