December 24 2012
Come sit on my knee, little Johnny Boehner and tell me what you want for Christmas. A fiscal cliff deal? Ho, ho, ho!
If I were Santa Claus handing out gifts for the season, I’d give Speaker John Boehner and all the Republicans on Capitol Hill the gift of being able to make their case to the American public. This would include the courage to say that financial negotiations in Washington must be conducted in public rather than behind closed doors.
President Obama—who has shown no inclination to give an inch in negotiations—has succeeded in making the GOP look intransigent.
Here is how the president “negotiates:”
Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn’t reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault.
At one point, according to notes taken by a participant, Mr. Boehner told the president, “I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?”
“You get nothing,” the president said. “I get that for free.”
The atmosphere on the Hill is toxic and the last thing we need is more venom. But it doesn’t require venom for Boehner and his team to tell the public what is going on: We are trying to negotiate with a man who won’t negotiate, they might say for starters.
We are trying to negotiate with a man who tells people that the middle class (he has divvied us up into classes!) will benefit from counterproductive polices based on envy, the GOP might tell us.
Instead, Boehner has shuttled between the Hill and the White House for secret negotiation with a man who speaks of his country’s economic plight in solipsistic terms: “I can get that for free.” Each summons to the White House gives the public the impression that the president is trying.
Negotiations in public might have curtailed the president's ability to portray the GOP as the Grinch and helped Speaker Boehner hold on to something he very much wants for Christmas: the chance to continue as Speaker of the House.
President Obama is a master politician. He has an iron will and is so self-centered that he made a funeral oration for the late Senator Daniel Inouye all about Obama. It can’t be much fun to go up against such a man. But we’re all going to end up with lumps of coal (figuratively, the president’s ideological policies could make real coal hard to get out of the ground) for the next four years if the GOP doesn’t learn to tell the public what is happening and what is at stake.