The strategy by Republicans to force the President to take a position on deficit cuts, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security is more transparent than one of Lady Gaga’s outfits. Tom Coburn, supposedly a personal friend of the President, describes it as a leadership deficit. Because the only person who is able to lead on these issues is the guy without a vote in the lawmaking body. What kind of leadership is it from a “leader” like Tom Coburn, actually, asking someone else to lead so they can follow? It’s laughable that Coburn claims members of Congress must be “willing to sacrifice their careers” over the issue when he isn’t willing to do anything without Barack Obama moving first.

But just to show how this strategy can work, take a look at what Democratic pollster Geoff Garin told members of the Senate at a retreat. This is the kind of cracker-jack advice given to national Democrats.

Democratic senators gathered at a Virginia resort last week to plot political strategy got alarming news from a trusted pollster: Republicans are winning the debate over dealing with the budget deficit.

The Democrats learned that while the public’s top concern is improving the economy, more voters view cutting spending rather than investing as the best way to do so. And right now, they trust Republicans more to do the trimming [...]

The message for Democrats, Garin said in an interview, is that their dispute with Republicans “can’t be framed as a debate between dealing with the deficit and not dealing with the deficit.” Democrats “have to make sure that this is posed in terms of the right way and the wrong way” to reduce the deficit “in a way that won’t harm the economy,” he said.

This is reflected in all the messages you see out of Democrats, including the very top. White House Budget Director Jack Lew welcomed the grand bargain talks yesterday himself, while not embracing specifics.

Never mind that Garin’s research does not match with virtually all the public polling out there, that shows jobs and the economy with a much greater level of importance (or rather, it does, if you read the full article; Garin just looks at it differently and sees what he wants to see). Never mind that fears about “the deficit” is merely a stand-in for economic performance, and that they go up when the conservative noise machine trains its sights on a Democrat in the White House, regardless of whether deficits go up or down (see the polling on the deficit when Clinton was busy balancing the budget). Consumed by fear, Garin insists that Democrats play on the Republican’s side of the field, and try to out-cut them. The implications for real people doesn’t really matter in this game.

Republicans are so gutless that simply refusing to get involved would be enough to put a stop to this. But going into what looks to be a government shutdown in two weeks, one side is saying we have to cut and the other side is also saying we have to cut, just in different places. That doesn’t bode well for the resolution.

Meanwhile, here’s some better advice for Democrats.