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?
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.
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.)