First, let me emphasize that while I greatly respect A.B. Stoddard*, I disagree with almost every word of her column today on a factual basis, as well as an opinion basis.

The president never wanted a government shutdown. He never said he wanted a government shutdown. He never implied he wanted a government shutdown. He never just about said he wanted a government shutdown. Never. Not once. Not ever. Period.

For the last three weeks the president and his staff have been deeply involved, through the vice president and the highest levels of the administration, alongside the majority leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House and their staffs, in budget negotiations. Period.

To suggest the president has been MIA when his vice president, his vice president's staff, the director of the Office of Management and Budget and his staff, and at times the White House chief of staff have been so deeply, hands-on involved is grossly and factually false. They have been involved. All of them. Extensively. Deeply.

Maybe I am more aware than most columnists of what has been happening behind the scenes, because I am close to certain high-level Democrats, but what I assert here is amply documented by information on the public record. This is not about "a few calls" in the last few days. This is about direct, hands-on, extensive involvement in negotiations that began not yesterday but three weeks ago.

On the longer-term issue of entitlements, it can be argued, with some merit, that the president has been too disengaged. I have argued that myself. But that has nothing to do with the government shutdown and the issues to be decided in the coming week.

To juxtapose the false charge that the president has been disengaged in the negotiation to avoid the shutdown with his attendance at a political fundraiser is absurd. Everyone knows the end of March is a major fundraising moment for all Democrats and all Republicans. I don't criticize the Speaker for his recent fundraisers. Nor do I criticize the president.

The state of negotiations today is that a deal is close that would cut about $33 billion, supported by Democrats, more than halfway toward the Republican position.

If there is a deal-breaker, it would be because ideologically extreme Republicans want to wage near-religious wars against their enemies of the month: NPR, Planned Parenthood and the Environmental Protection Agency. This has virtually nothing to do with reducing the deficit, and everything to do with an ideological extremism of Republicans that is far outside the main stream of American opinion.

I believe there will be a deal, but if there is no deal, and there is a government shutdown, it will be a Republican government shutdown caused by ideological crusades that the American people will not join Republicans in supporting.

Tea Party support is falling fast in the polls.

The Republicans should drop their extreme demands and accept the Democratic offer to meet them more than halfway.

If they do not, the Republicans will be blamed for the shutdown. They will deserve to be blamed. And they will pay the price, as Newt Gingrich once learned the hard way.

* The day after the column in question ran, Stoddard wrote a Pundits Blog piece disavowing elements contained therein. — Ed.