Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Obama calls the GOP’s bluff

Eugene Robinson

Here’s how to negotiate, GOP-style: Begin by making outrageous demands. Bully your opponents into giving you almost all of what you want. Rather than accept the deal, add a host of radical new demands. Observe casually that you wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to the hostage you’ve taken — the nation’s well-being. To the extent possible, look and sound like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”

This strategy has worked so well for Republicans that it’s no surprise they’re using it again, this time in the unnecessary fight over what should be a routine increase in the debt ceiling. This time, however, something different is happening: President Obama seems to be channeling Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver.” At a news conference last Wednesday, Obama’s response to the GOP was, essentially, “You talkin’ to me?”

Obama’s in-your-face attitude seems to have thrown Republicans off their stride. They thought all they had to do was convince everyone they were crazy enough to force an unthinkable default on the nation’s financial obligations. Now they have to wonder if Obama is crazy enough to let them.

He's not, but neither are the Repugs but they'll take it right to the wall. Standing up to the Repug bullies is what we've wanted Obama to do all along. Too bad it took him so long.

Every independent, bipartisan, blue-ribbon panel that has looked at the deficit problem has reached the same conclusion: The gap between spending and revenue is much too big to be closed by budget cuts alone. With fervent conviction but zero evidence, Tea Party Republicans believe otherwise — and Establishment Republicans, who know better, are afraid to contradict them.

Bullies are almost always cowards, but you have to stand up to them to make it apparent and show them up as being ridiculous. If that doesn't work, just hit 'em. Hard.

The stakes are perilously high, but Obama does have a doomsday option: If all else fails, he can assert that a section of the 14th Amendment — “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned” — makes the debt limit unconstitutional and instructs him to take any measures necessary to avoid default.

Maybe that’s why, in this stare-down, the president doesn’t seem inclined to blink.

That's what Congressional Repugs, and probably Dems as well, are really worried about - that this kind of power will be taken away from them under the Constitution they claim to love and make them even more irrelevant.


The Rude Pundit weighs in on Gene's point:

If you want your movie references for the current state of the debate, even an ordinary kidnapping situation doesn't work. No, these days, ya gotta go with your mad bombers. Like, say, Dennis Hopper in Speed. When he wasn't hooking up buses or elevators with explosives, Hopper's bad guy was holding Sandra Bullock or Jeff Daniels hostage with bombs and a trigger. His threat to Keanu Reeves was that he was gonna get what he wanted or he would blow up the hostage, along with himself and anyone else nearby. So since a debt default would fuck over most everyone in the United States (except, you know, people who have investments that bet against the country, like Eric Cantor), the GOP is saying, "Give us everything we want or we'll see you in Hell."

Here's the thing, the fucked-up, screaming-into-the-dark, tear your hair out aggravation about the debt ceiling "negotiations" (if by "negotiations," you mean, "An agreement where your lover ties you to a bed, fucks you whenever he wants, gets his friends to fuck you, shits on you, and castrates you, but at least you get to go on living"). It's the reason that the Rude Pundit has written very little about the current pounds-of-flesh demands being made by the Republicans in exchange for not plunging the nation into a depression:

Since one ought to offer something akin to advice (and "don't blink" seems to be au courant), the Rude Pundit believes that the White House should announce that it's directed the Office of Legal Counsel to explore whether or not the 14th Amendment obviates the need for this debate. That's called "negotiating." Giving the other side even more than what it wants and hoping they give you a grain of what you want is not.

Playing chicken is bullshit because we on the left know where that ends. We know who's got the twitchy eyes in the staring contest. What the President needs to do is say, "You know how we were playing this game in the legislative ballpark? We're moving it to the executive one, and you can shove all your budget cuts up your asses." If you want a game-changer, you gotta actually change the game.

Or, to bring it back to the movies, shoot the hostage.

Hmmmmm...lemme see if I'm getting this - hostage-takers usually shoot one hostage at a time to get what they want and then shoot all the hostages after they get it, while the "hostage rescue team" shoots the hostages first so the hostage-takers have no bargaining chips. Either way, the hostages are toast and we're the hostages. Is that about right?


Infidel753 said...

This strategy has worked so well for Republicans that it’s no surprise they’re using it again,

Which is why the Democrats caving wouldn't be a viable option, even aside from the immediate consequences. If they make some disastrous deal in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, then the next time the ceiling needs to be raised (or any other issue comes along that allows the Republicans to obstruct something), the same hostage crisis will play itself out all over again, with yet more outrageous demands. It's like negotiating with terrorists -- it just means more of the same.

I hope Obama has the guts to go for the 14th-Amendment option, but that would be a very bold move, and he's usually more cautious than bold by inclination.

GefilteBacon said...

You can hardly blame Republicans for standing up for corporate jet owners. If they don't, who will? And besides, if Republicans raise taxes by the tiniest amount, Grover Norquist and his taxpayer pledge accolytes will sic their rotweilers on them (and we mean that literally).

Perhaps we need a pledge to protect everyone else…. http://xr.com/d1mh