Obama’s position of “I’m not going to negotiate” is unattractive. It may be the correct position, because certainly the Republican position is utterly absurd, but it is tactless in its optics. A position in which he said that “There are points on which I am not prepared to be flexible," accompanied by a willingness to have talks would be a lot more sympathetic.
Americans like “tough guys” though, and I guess he is playing to that.
Although it sounds eminently reasonable, there is actually a certain unreasonableness in the Democratic insistence that “Congress pass the clean spending bill now and then we will negotiate everything else.” It is, in effect, asking the Republicans to surrender and then negotiate the terms of that surrender after they have emerged from their positions, laid down their arms, and put on the handcuffs.
Republicans have very little leverage. Democrats have the threat of presidential veto, and control of the Senate. Republicans have the House, and the only thing that gives them is control of revenue. They control nothing else, only revenue bills, and Democrats are demanding that they surrender on the revenue bill and only then will they negotiate on all the other bills; the ones where Republicans have no leverage whatever.
I don’t see this as a case of both sides currently being at fault, but that doesn’t mean that Obama and company has clean skirts. Obama has been a terrible negotiator, frequently making concessions before negotiations even began and then making further concessions during the process. He has backed himself into a position where he really can concede no further, and if he had been a better negotiator earlier we would not be here now.
It’s often true that the earlier you precipitate something the less disastrous that precipitation will be. There really was no need for this.