I agree with others who have noticed a change after the election in how President Obama is approaching negotiations over this so-called fiscal cliff. I’ll admit to seeing the tiniest of indicators of the existence of a spine in the back of President Obama, though I’d still describe it as mostly cartilage, less than bone, and far from steel. The Obama Spine is like the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, science alluding to its presence based on increasingly clear indirect evidence. Considering what happened in the last few difficult negotiations, we should be grateful for this improvement.
In the health care reform fight, knowing compromise was inevitable, President Obama tried to show us how smart he was by jumping toward the middle right away, taking single payer off the table and offering a meager public option. Yet he was somehow shocked that the right didn’t accept the reasonable path.
During the lame-duck congressional session in 2010, President Obama (a.k.a. Captain Cave-in), again wanted to show us how smart he was (after all, that’s the whole point of this negotiation, right?). As summarized by Jane Hamsher:
He could have offered up many excuses for cutting this tax deal with Republicans, but this was the one he chose:
I’ve said before that I felt that the middle-class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts. I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed. Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed.
Since that time, the White House has reiterated the point about giving the Republicans everything they wanted because they were holding “hostages” several times.
Think about that for a minute. The President of the United States entered into negotiations with the opposition party, who are still currently in the minority in both the House and the Senate. What he wanted (unemployment benefit extension) was tremendously popular with the public, and without it, the Republican plan would’ve been extremely unpopular. And after announcing at the G20 that he absolutely would not compromise, he proceeds to give the Republicans everything they wanted, and more, because they were willing to “take hostages.”
He acknowledged he had popular support for a fight, that the public was on his side and didn’t WANT this capitulation.
And then he referred to those who had forced him into this terrible position due to their unconscionable willingness to “take hostages” as “my friends.” And claims victory.
It’s like sending an engraved invitation to everyone who ever negotiates against you to engage in brinksmanship.
This year, the president really seems to be insisting that taxes for the top 2% will go up. I’m giving him credit for that much. There has been no sign that he is wavering on this. At this point, the question becomes how much will he be induced to give in to GOP demands on so-called entitlement cuts, such as a plan to take away Medicare completely from future 65- and 66-year-olds. I guess we’ll see what happens when the GOP eventually stoops to taking hostages again next week.
This picture is an improvement because in the 2010 version, you couldn’t see President Obama since he was under the table at Boehner’s feet, doing what … I’ll leave to your imagination.