Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Obama on the Debt Ceiling

The president announced a speech for tomorrow in which he is expected to offer his plan for reducing the deficit, in the teeth of Republican demands for more blood from the American working classes as a condition for approving an increase in the debt ceiling. As always, the announcement comes with promises of "bipartisan" appeal, but given that the result of failure to raise the debt ceiling would be economic catastrophe, the Republican threat is hollow.

To date, every time Obama promised to be "bipartisan," he followed up with a Grand Canyon sized cave-in to Republican demands, which in turn was followed by greater cave-ins as he proceeded to "compromise" from his weak starting position. If he thinks this is the only way to win himself a second term — appealing to so-called "centrists" in an attempt to appear "reasonable" — maybe he ought to pay a little more attention to what, in a previous administration, was called the "wimp factor." Americans don't like to be led by a shrinking violet, afraid to offend anybody at all.

The first rule of negotiations is to lower the opponent's expectations by demanding absolutely everything on one's wish list. The Republicans do it every time, Obama never. I'll be very pleased if this time, at least, he follows this most basic rule. I'll also be very surprised.

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