July 18, 2011

Debt Ceiling Ending With Whimper, Not Bang

Echoes of Casey Stengel reverberate: "can't anybody here play this game?" Seems in the wink of an eye the risible Republican party has collapsed before Barack "Don't Call My Bluff" Obama's star turn as the voice of reason.

As Ross Douthat pointed out, "In the negotiations over the debt ceiling, the Republican Party had everything mapped out except the endgame."

Which is sort of hilarious in that the endgame is pretty much the only game that counts. We're not talking horseshoes here, after all.

It's sort of a metaphor for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where getting in is much easier than getting out, though getting out in this case was seemingly as easy as allowing the President the fig leaf of removing a few tax loopholes, something that seems pretty small potatoes if married to a real cut in spending. The American people wanted cuts and the "optics" as the insiders say, were such that the mere mention of "raising our debt ceiling" was politically unpopular.

How is it possible that Republicans can so often have public opinion with them on an issue and still find a way to lose, such as with the health care bill and now the debt?

But now Obama, not universally known for his negotiating/poker skills (look at how well he's done with dictators he was going to sit down and reason with), suddenly looks like Marvin Miller. It amazes me that politicians, supposedly very shrewd at, teehee, politics, could play their hand so badly. Republican pols blunder around like blunderbusses, like bulls in a china shop, with strategic skills rivaling that of a 4th grade RISK player.

Meanwhile no one has ever done a better acting job as the off-Broadway star Obama, who has been ham-handedly playing the role of the voice of reason on debt and deficit.

I'd thought earlier that many House members were free men and women because they weren't beholden to the establishment and weren't afraid to lose their jobs. But that may've been a stretch. It may be that they were too afraid to lose their jobs by doing something politically unpopular with their base: that of closing tax loopholes.

In the end, this all seems faintly reminiscent of what was given for the fall of Rome: neither the status quo nor the cure were endurable so they drifted into the inevitable.

My solution? I propose a mandatory college course for all Republican members of Congress on negotiating, politics and endgames.


Gregg the Obscure said...

Y'know, in recent decades all new members of Congress get some indoctrination from the JFK school of government at Harvard. I think that's actually part of the problem.

TS said...

Yeah I thought after writing "college course" that"s likely part of the problem so I removed it when I sent it to as a letter to the editor. Maybe they should get a course from someone with some street smarts, not book learning.

Jim Curley said...

In general I think Republicans have never been good as "closers". They just aren't very good politicians as a class. I used to think it was because they were more principled than the opposition. Perhaps it is because of the opposite?


TS said...

I agree Republicans are poor closers and the why of it is perplexing. You'd think the party associated with business would be a bit shrewder when it comes to negotiations, but I suppose both parties are parties of lawyers more than anything else. It's like a game of chess, and if both parties suck at thinking a few moves ahead, the Dems seem better at playing their hand.

It's not as though both don't know the other exceeding well - Republicans knew Dems would play the tax-the-rich card and yet somehow seem to be caught off guard.

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Thanks Inspector, will check out your blog!