A Negotiation Guide for Obama

Last week we offered some advice for the Republicans–and now the President has taken a hard line, following the boxing advice of Senate majroity leader and amatuer scrapper, Harry Reid, by not engaging.

Why won’t President Obama negotiate with the Republicans? (We have been here before.) Conservative talking points are drilling down on this point: the President talks to Iran and Russia but not his colleagues in the Congress?

Matt Iglesias explains on Slate via Drudge:

The whole reason Obama neither will nor can negotiate with John Boehner is that Boehner has the equivalent of the The Bomb. He’s threatening the destruction of the American financial system unless Obama implements policies that he favors. The government of Iran doesn’t have the power to make a similar threat, but the government of Russia does. Vladimir Putin could hold a press conference tomorrow and say that nuclear-armed ballistic missiles will destroy Houston, Chicago, and Indianapolis tomorrow unless Obama agrees to his list of demands.

Would it be reasonable for Obama to open a negotiation on those terms? Of course not! The content of the demands isn’t even relevant. The threat is too crazy to indulge. You simply observe that such an attack would trigger a counteract and lead to tragedy on a global scale. Then you have to hope the Russians come to their senses, because if they don’t something awful is going to happen.

via Obama negotiate with Putin and Rouhani, not with House GOP..


There is a strategy here–more than just a negotiation principle at stake. The President has the backing of Bill Clinton–who also faced a shutdown and said “the current price of stopping [a shutdown] is higher than the price of letting the Republicans do it and take their medicine.”

In TNR, Noah Scheiber supports the view  to allow the Tea Party faction run the Republican party off the rails:

Long story short: The White House willingness to engage in a multi-issue mega-negotiation plays entirely into Boehner’s hand. It’s basically a strategy designed to maximize Republican leverage and minimize Obama’s. At the very least, the White House should want to keep each track of the negotiation unambiguously separate, forcing Boehner to acknowledge his terrible bargaining position.

Of course skeptics abound–such as legendary  WaPo reporter Bob Woodward who says any crisis that results will be ascribed to the President and that its “on his head.” (He is talking about the debt crisis, more must-see TV, so its not the same as this current standoff.)

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13 thoughts on “A Negotiation Guide for Obama

  1. jmmorgan242 says:

    Political negotiation is indeed a complicated game. Based on the above, and various other articles I’ve read. All the teams seem to be playing the game to the best of their ability. The point of playing any game is of course to win. I rarely use sports analogies, but I feel that our government has steered away from actual bipartisan political negotiation and started a raucous game of keep away with the American budget. They are all trying to assert their power, claiming that they are trying to achieve “what’s best for the American people.” Just like professional athletes, these politicians are grossly overpaid, however, they also have the terrifying ability to take money away from their “fans.” Sure Obamacare and all the other things that the houses of congress are fighting over may be important to the American people, but I can speak for my own family that we will take Obamacare, if that means my dad gets to go back to work tomorrow and get paid so he can put food on the table.

  2. clintkunz says:

    I think it is ridiculous to compare the current shut-down dilemma with Boehmer holding “The Bomb”. Debt is no ones friend and both parties hate it. However, it is being used as a tool to push agendas. We aren’t dealing with a nuke. We are talking about a healthcare program, entitlement funds and a budget. Congress and the President are accountable. The Obama administration is not the victim nor the king. Both parties are to represent the people and the people make compromises everyday. Scheiber stated that he believes that Obama can beat the GOP by first negotiating to raise the debt ceiling. He argues that after the debt ceiling is raised then Boehmer will not have much power to negotiate. I think that he’s right. Congress is constantly battling about who is right rather than what is right.

  3. mckaycorbett says:

    I agree with the above comment in that both parties are to blame and we cannot place it on the shoulders of any one person. We all agree that there has to be a bi-partisan agreement but it seems to me that President Obama doesn’t want a bi-partisan agreement, he wants an Obama agreement. He wants an agreement where he will get everything HE wants and then if he doesn’t get it he will not move from his position as he continues to put the blames on others for not doing what HE wants. It seems to me that he has forgotten that he is not the only person who has been elected by the people to represent them in the government.

  4. alexkhirst says:

    I think there is definite merit in bipartisanship, as the comment above suggests. However, I think with our current party leaders, neither side wants to cooperate with each other. Thus, one can see why Obama doesn’t try to negotiate with Boehner– Boehner doesn’t want to negotiate. The two parties have become so polarized that it is difficult for any agenda to pass. Therefore, I think it’s important in the elections to support candidates that do not have extremely polarized stances. Nothing will be accomplished if there isn’t some form of bipartisanship.

  5. dbaker24 says:

    The current shut-down situation I believe is a rather severe consequence to what is being fought over. As far I can tell, the shut down is being used as a tool to simply push the agenda of the Republican party, and that is to only delay what will eventually come into effect for a year. Both parties need to realize that there are larger things at stake. Such as the payment and jobs of hundreds of thousands of Americans. While they are still being paid under the shut down many are not. Hopefully, a resolution will soon come into play soon.

  6. jackdavis says:

    First of all, it is a monumental stretch to say that House Republicans and Speaker Boehner are “threatening to destroy the American financial system”. No Republican has made a statement even close to that affect, and a strong desire to negotiate does not equate to a threat. Nobody is talking about bombing Houston or Chicago – just about the need to negotiate.

    While it is clear the the House Republicans are partially to blame for the government shutdown and dysfunction in Washington, we have to remember that out of the three groups that make laws – the House, Senate, and White House – the Republicans only control one. In that sense, it is not the Republicans who are “running the show”, which means it also falls on the Democrats to try and work out a solution. In addition, the blame is not as one sided as it seems, evidenced today by the fact that the House passed a bill asking to hold a conference committee with the Senate to try and work out a deal. The Senate rejected the offer, saying they wont meet until the House drops the Obamacare issue all together.

  7. eebashaw says:

    My goodness, the current shut-down is just plain DUMB! A gridlocked government cannot be placed only on one party. In all situations, it takes two to tango. On the one hand, I respect both parties for actually taking a stand for something they believe in (respectively that the health care law is not ready, and conversely that it needs to be implemented now) because so much of politics now is being wishy-washy to please constituents, but come on. Our entire system of government was built upon hard, complicated negotiations. The Constitution was created, line by line, by negotiations with people all wanting different things and having to find a middle ground they could all live with. Why has our government become so alienated from what the principles it was founded upon? An agreement needs to be reached soon for the sake of all the currently unpaid government employees. It is not a travesty that the government is shutdown today at least, but if it continues this way and there are adverse affects on the economy, Obama WILL be the one to blame because people do not know enough, nor care enough about congress to place the blame there. President Obama should be pushing for a reasonable negotiation, not having a hard-line “I win” attitude.

  8. I remember when Obama was campaigning for his first term and even during his first term he touted himself as a bi-partisan president supporting bi-partisan politics in Congress. Clearly that ship sailed long ago because his actions today are anything but bi-partisan. That being said, both the House and Senate’s positions are rigid, partisan positions. No one is entirely to blame. Both sides played their part in the shutdown. However, I do not think not negotiating will fix anything. Personally, I think it’d be nice if we just locked everyone in a room together and didn’t let them out until they had reached an agreement. We are dealing with American’s livelihoods here and it frustrates me that regular Americans are the ones paying for the rigidity and idiocy of the lawmakers on the Hill. Wouldn’t it be nice if the first people to be affected by the shutdown were the people who caused it: the President and the members of Congress.

  9. taylorking2 says:

    I think the problem with making this type of an analogy is that it makes the American people look poorly on the Republican party. I think that the Russians honestly believe that what they are doing is in the best interest of their country. I seriously doubt that they are being stubborn just to make Obama angry. If that is true, so what if they are stubborn? And by the same reasoning, so what if the Republicans won’t negotiate or change their minds? They honestly believe that it is in the best interest of our nation, and so they refuse to budge. I think it’s important to remember that the American people elected these officials, knowing what their political affiliation was. So how can we point fingers and say that the Republicans are being stubborn and are acting like Russia, if we voted them in office!

  10. jbs4395 says:

    I think it’s wrong to point the finger and pile all the blame upon the shoulders of the Republicans. Surely there are some things the Republican members of Congress are to be held responsible for, but the blame lies with everyone as a whole. I agree with one of the above statements. “I think it’d be nice if we just locked everyone in a room together and didn’t let them out until they had reached an agreement.” When the Founders met together to found a new nation, of course they had their disputes. Every single Founder represented individual interests that had to be overcome for the greater good of the people of the nation. But they heard each other out, and at the end of the day, their friendship with one another and their determination to create a free nation led them to work together and overcome their misgivings about flaws or frailties they saw in each other or in the Constitution they hoped to set up. Why can’t our leaders do that today? They don’t have the burden of creating a nation. They need to overcome their self-interest, come to a compromise, and serve the people. Shutting down the government does no good for the American people.

  11. araujophm says:

    What I find interesting on this topic is that the attention is only set on the party that has previously set the terms and now won’t budge. Of course Obama doesn’t want to negotiate. The plans made by the democrats is what they want, or else they wouldn’t have bothered to create the plan in the first place. Some store owners set a price that is higher than what they expect to make and then lower it when people bargain at the store, but you can’t go to JCrew and ask them to sell you something for a different price. The problem with a divided government is that each party will set their wants and sometimes they agree on certain things and can come to a decision, but at other times they will not be able to come to a consensus because they want something different from what the other party is willing to negotiate to.

  12. I’m with Taylor, but I would also say the same about Democrats. Everyone is doing what they think is best, but somehow, what is best for everyone somehow ends up fighting with itself. How is it that the question “what is best?” can be answered in was that contradict each other? The whole point of our system is to get differing ideas of what is best out there so that we can consider other view points and find something that works for the most people. For some reason, open discussion seems to have died in our government.

  13. simonliuu says:

    I think everyone can agree that having the government shutdown indefinitely is bad. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as “Let’s all come together and agree on something.” On one hand, the Democrats (and Obama) have been working towards health care reform for years and they aren’t going to back down because they will have nothing else to fight for. On the other hand, the Tea Party Republicans have centered their entire political platform on working against the President and repealing Obamacare.
    With that being said, I understand how important the Obamacare issue is. However, is a government shutdown really the conditions under which to have that debate? Personally, I don’t usually like making important decisions with a gun to my head.

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