Obama was not a good negotiator, and I received many sharp replies, to paraphrase: "How do you know he's not a good negotiator?" "Have you ever negotiated?" "As a lawyer and I've never heard of your kind of negotiation tactic." I tried to address each counter argument, and maintained hope that Obama would lead, and not just remain "above the fray" as he's tried to do. It's not 20-20 hindsight to simply say that what's been happening has been miscalculation on a grand scale.
Krugman sums up this growing "screaming in a dream" frustration better than I ever could:
Did the president have any alternative this time around? Yes.
First of all, he could and should have demanded an increase in the debt ceiling back in December. When asked why he didn’t, he replied that he was sure that Republicans would act responsibly. Great call.
And even now, the Obama administration could have resorted to legal maneuvering to sidestep the debt ceiling, using any of several options. In ordinary circumstances, this might have been an extreme step. But faced with the reality of what is happening, namely raw extortion on the part of a party that, after all, only controls one house of Congress, it would have been totally justifiable.
At the very least, Mr. Obama could have used the possibility of a legal end run to strengthen his bargaining position. Instead, however, he ruled all such options out from the beginning.
But wouldn’t taking a tough stance have worried markets? Probably not. In fact, if I were an investor I would be reassured, not dismayed, by a demonstration that the president is willing and able to stand up to blackmail on the part of right-wing extremists. Instead, he has chosen to demonstrate the opposite.
Why You don't Negotiate with Terrorists
I'ts nothing new to suggest that what the tea party puppets in the House did is essentially fiscal terrorism. One could even argue that it's terrorism, outright, without the "fiscal" modifier, because they threatened to tear down the country's economy wholesale. They threatened the security of the country...but I digress. It's a well-known dictum that you don't negotiate with terrorists, because once you meet one demand, they will demand more and more. That's because they deem the "give and take" of negotiations to be weakness. (And it's also probably why the leaders of the tea party probably thinks that they have the power to simply replace the Speaker of the House.) But again, I digress. And again, Krugman sums it up all too well:
It is, of course, a political catastrophe for Democrats, who just a few weeks ago seemed to have Republicans on the run over their plan to dismantle Medicare; now Mr. Obama has thrown all that away. And the damage isn’t over: there will be more choke points where Republicans can threaten to create a crisis unless the president surrenders, and they can now act with the confident expectation that he will.
Saaay, what's that lurking in the foreshadows...? Doh!!
In a painful, forehead slapping return to the recent past, the other day Krugman recounted an exchange (alluded to in the first quote) that foreshadowed everything we're experiencing right now--a horrible miscalculation that we will likely be paying for over many years.
Q Mr. President
How do these negotiations affect negotiations or talks with Republicans about raising the debt limit? Because it would seem that they have a significant amount of leverage over the White House now, going in. Was there ever any attempt by the White House to include raising the debt limit as a part of this package?
THE PRESIDENT: When you say it would seem they’ll have a significant amount of leverage over the White House, what do you mean?
Q Just in the sense that they’ll say essentially we’re not going to raise the — we’re not going to agree to it unless the White House is able to or willing to agree to significant spending cuts across the board that probably go deeper and further than what you’re willing to do. I mean, what leverage would you have –
THE PRESIDENT: Look, here’s my expectation — and I’ll take John Boehner at his word — that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That’s something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.
My question now: What is to be done to turn the tide of lunacy?