Please, Oh Please, Not Another Four Years Of A Reasonable President Obama

At the end of a story about the president and his strategy on tax changes in coming weeks and months, this sentence appeared in today’s New York Times: “The president did not mention rates on Friday in his first post-election remarks on the budget talks, and people in both parties interpreted that as a sign of his bargaining flexibility.”

A sign of bargaining flexibility? At the start of a negotiation? Jeez.

You don’t signal flexibility at the start of a negotiation. Not if you want to come out the other side getting most of what you want. You signal inflexibility.

I am the president, you proclaim. I just won the majority of the votes and a huge electoral victory. You lost your shot at the Senate and only retained the House because you rigged the voting via gerrymandering. So you gotta do what I say. And give me all I want.

That’s where you start in order to win at the end of the day. Indicating that what you want initially is negotiable is a guarantee that you will be perceived as weak and malleable. And the other side will get most of what it wants.

Doesn’t this guy ever learn? How many times do the Republicans have to roll him in a negotiation before he realizes that you only give a little along the way, big stuff only at the very end, nothing, not even a hint of something, at the start.

I hope I’m wrong about this. But I’m seeing early signs of the reasonable 2009 and 2010 Obama about to turn yet another sure-fire victory into a Republican mauling.

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  • dduck

    MS, I’m conflicted, I believe in speak quietly and carry a big stick. If O would just walk the walk and drop the talk part, I think we might see better results. He has been, and I hope stops being, a kind of looking good type of guy with an eye on the polls and trying to please his base too much. Get a set, you earned it by creaming the Reps.

  • petew

    Michael,

    I think Obama’s claim to be open to other ideas, is a suggestions partly aimed at illustrating that Democrats are reasonable creatures who are waiting for some fair consideration from Republicans in return.

    I know that the election was quite close—at least according to the popular vote—so Obama hardly can use this as a burning and righteous excuse to seek only his own ends. But I don’t believe he has ever really been very unreasonable at all!

    His previous negotiations with Boehner seemed to fall through because inflexible tea party members thought there was more political millage in making rigid demands and refusing to negotiate on anything that might make the President look good. what kind of negotiating is it, when beforehand, one party insists on not giving an inch on taxes for any reason it damn well pleases?

    On the other hand, Obama has signaled that he will consider changes even to social security and make many other cuts, if only Republicans will give up their idea that, refusing to offer, any—absolutely any—tax increases, is somehow going to produce desirable results!

    During the Republican primaries, and during one debate, not one candidate dared agree, even to allow just one tax increase in return for 10 comparable cuts. This is a no-brainer, and probably, it is a good gauge for which side is more likely to give in—according to reason.

    The GOP makes a big issue out of only closing loopholes and not raising taxes,so as to not to burden the growth of “small businesses.” However, by some definitions a small business operates with 500 or less employees (or possibly as many as 15000). You are not going to walk down main street and discover many struggling businesses with more than 500 employees. Also, there is no real proof that increasing taxes destroys any chance to grow the economy— But actually there is quite a bit of historical evidence to the contrary—that LOWERING rates will NOT promote growth!

    I suspect that since both closed loopholes and/or increased tax rates will take money out of large businesses, that Republicans are only refusing to bend on this issue out of the promise made to themselves and the tea party that, they will NOT raise taxes! And, since they have not even revealed which loopholes they want to close, we can bet that any honest concessions are going to come from the POTUS. The only reason he has played it rough at all, is that making only bi-partisan gestures and signaling for compromise, has yielded absolutely nothing from an obstructionist GOP. I think the question of tax rate increases vs. closing loopholes is primarily a battle of words, intended only to give Republicans an honorable way out!

  • dduck

    Obsession: Compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea or an unwanted feeling or emotion, often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety.

    O, raise the tax rate to 100% on the top 1% and maybe your obsession will be satisfied, but the economic problem will NOT be anywhere near being fixed.

  • slamfu

    Obama tried being nice before. That got him bumpkiss. That guy has been retired, and now he is going to be as hardnosed and unrelenting as they are. And this time, the GOP can’t stall, not without letting a mountain of automatic things happen for which they might get the blame for. Of course, we do have more or less the same pack of spineless democrats that will be up for election in ’14 and I’m sure they will be just as willing to cave this time as they were in ’10. But this time, Obama doesn’t have another election to worry about.

  • sheknows

    dd, Obama doesn’t have to worry about pleasing his base any longer.
    I agree with you MS. He is already showing signs of cooperation and a willingness to be rational, where McConnell and Boehner are not. He gave it his best shot before. He is not required by decorum, position, or any misplaced sense of fairness to do it again. As you said, he is the president. Enough already!
    Start the negotiations from so very far away from the Republican agenda, that they will merely gain ground to make things equitable for all concerned.

  • dduck

    SK, you make good points, but I refute the one about pleasing his base. I think he is an egotist and they always want to appear “good” looking and sounding. Closed door sessions are probably not his strong suit.

  • sheknows

    The last “closed door session” Romney had didn’t work out too well for him either as I recall, at least half the nation didn’t think so.
    But I ( of course) disagree. It wouyld be hard to really know what type of negotiator Obama is at this point, because Res have refused to negotiate on anything. We will just have to wait…maybe be pleasantly surprised.

  • zephyr

    Obama tried being nice before. That got him bumpkiss. That guy has been retired, and now he is going to be as hardnosed and unrelenting as they are.

    Hope you’re right about that last part slam. The reaching across the aisle bizz has to come from the R’s – their penance for being utterly useless and obstructive last time around.

  • MICHAEL SILVERSTEIN, Wall Street Columnist

    Hi All,

    I believe if Romney had won the election, by one electoral vote and even with a loss of the popular vote thrown in, he would still be proclaiming that the people demand leadership and he was plunging ahead with his own agenda–and if Democrats opposed him they would be destroying the economy. That’s what Romney would have done. Obama should do the same.

    Here’s how I would start down this road. Make as a precondition for the president to BEGIN negotiating, that the Republican House has to pass the Bush-era tax cuts for the 98 percent and let the top 2 percent cuts expire. Republicans, in case you haven’t twigged to their post-election plans yet, are hoping to “give” on this point in return for everything else they want. By making it a precondition of even seriously negotiating, however, Mr. Obama could largely determine where negotiations finally end up. And, by the way, have the backing of most Americans for this gambit.

    You know. Leadership. I won. Me. not you. So here’s what we’re going to do…

  • dduck

    I would go along if you did it MS, I have less confidence in O’s negotiating skills and more confidence in his posturing- of course in public.

  • zephyr

    Leadership. I won. Me. not you. So here’s what we’re going to do…

    Exactly right. Appeals to cooperation and reason were tried and rejected in the first term. Time for a new approach.

  • jdledell

    I think Obama is playing the long game here. He talked as if he has flexibility in order to show that he and Democrats are being reasonable. I think he did that because he does not believe that Boehner and his Tea Party faithful will make ANY deal. Thus the fiscal cliff will occur and Obama wants to make sure that Republicans get the full blame. A month into the new year and economic upheavals, the Republicans will be forced by public opinion to back way off their demands and Obama will get most of what he wants in the subsequent negotiations.

  • sheknows

    jd, you are saying that this whole thing revolves around Obama wanting to cast blame on the Republicans. He will orchestrate a complete collapse of the economy just to thumb his nose at the Republicans. Yeah, you’re right. No one cares about the people…not the Dems, not the Reps…all of this is done to see who has the biggest. The fiscal future is just a pawn in a much bigger, more important game, namely that of “tag…you’re it” Are you insane????

  • bluebelle

    I sort of disagree with the premise that the vote was too close for Obama to claim much of a mandate. With a 50/50 split in the way we vote, no candidate is going to be getting Ronald Reagan landslides anymore. As it is, he got more of a margin of the popular vote than Bush did against Kerry, and he slaughtered it in the Electoral College.
    He needs to be willing to give up something, but should stick to his bottom line about everything else. If that doesn’t work, hold their feet to the fire. Use the bully pulpit and name names. The House, especially, is vulnerable since they are up for election again in 2 years. I doubt any of them want to run on a record of not cooperating on an economic deal to get us out of this mess. Their opponents will be more than happy to remind any voter that forgets.

  • jdledell

    sheknows – I don’t believe Obama wants to go over the fiscal cliff – that was not my point. If Republicans are reasonable in their negotiations, then Obama will be able to reach a reasonable compromise with them and the fiscal cliff will be avoided. My point is that he feels the majority of House Republicans will put their foot down and absolutely refuse to compromise. Boehner was indicated flexibility but Cantor has not.

    No one wants to go over the cliff except conservative ideologues and, unfortunately, they dominate the House.

  • dduck

    You guys are forgetting the old kick it down the street ploy where both sides get off the hook?

  • petew

    dduck & Michael,

    What person who desires to be the leader of the free world can achieve that goal without a large ego? But if he keeps his eye on his base (in this case at least) Obama already knows that something like 2/3rds of voters favor the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy. So, he is now trying to please both his own ideological values and the wishes of his base.

    For the President, moving towards the center and trying to reach across the aisle has been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because if voters pay attention, they will notice that, the pre-ordained Republican snaring document called the Norquist pledge, make the GOP fear to bend on any proposal about taxes. So it has, and will, become obvious to the public that Obama is the only adult in the room who seems to understand the words compromise and sincerity! And I can’t help but believe that most middle-class voters approve of a willingness to compromises—at least to some degree. Conversely, Obama’s willingness to bend has cost him dearly by wasting too much time trying to persuade hostile Republicans and their tea party over-lords, to actually make some sort of concessions. So in this case his centrist bi-partisan ideals are also a serious curse!

    I know that Obama is a shrewd strategist when he has to be, and, I believe that signalling a willingness to be open to suggestions, will indeed sit well with the public—even if he seriously plans to be that way, or not. But whether he is serious, or just playing a political chess game, is irrelevant, because in the end, just claiming to be open will earn him Kudos with American working class people and set up Republicans as being unreasonable when they fail to yield on any politically and ethically valid idea.

    Personally, I believe the President is serious about bi-partisan support, but by now, he realizes the limited value of being nice, and, will do some arm twisting during negotiations if that’s what it takes!

  • dduck

    petew, nobody wants nice, respectful OK, but nice does not solve problems.
    Now you said 2/3rds of voters favor higher taxes on the wealthy, please cite your source cause this is what I read:
    “Well, that’s not as clear as he claims. One exit poll question on Tuesday asked “Should taxes be raised to help cut the budget deficit?” The answer was no by nearly 2 to 1. A second question asked if tax rates should “increase for all” (13%); “increase only on income over $250,000″ (47%); or “not increase for anyone” (35%). Three quarters of the latter 35% voted for Mitt Romney, which means they are represented more or less by Mr. Boehner, whose House majority also won re-election. On taxes as with so much else, the country is still divided.”
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323894704578109152933575788.html