Something that I think should be understood about the idea of “triangulating” via a proposal to freeze federal salary is that triangles are two dimensional objects. To triangulate properly you can’t simply occupy a point between where the left and right poles are, you need to also move off the line.
Game this out a bit. Obama says (a) the short-term deficit is too high and (b) real wages for federal civilian workers are too high. But if (a) and (b) are true, why a nominal freeze? Why not a 3 percent cut? This move totally fails to achieve the goal of painting the opposition as unreasonable. Obviously any time there’s a disagreement about a quantitative issue you need to be willing to settle on a semi-arbitrary midpoint but as an opening bid it’s totally unstable.
Better triangulation requires a triangle. Liberals say spend more money on schools, conservatives say spend less. I say: School uniforms! That’s a triangle. Now we’re complicating the argument, introducing extra dimensions, giving people new wiggle room to bargain in, showing innovative thinking, etc.