Monday, August 01, 2011

Beat. Head. Wall.

For those of us watching in fascinated horror, the US debt ceiling drama has been a lesson in political science, and a teachable moment for those who urge collaboration and bipartisanship, no matter how unreasonable the opponent.

There's an interesting analysis from Bruce Bartlett, who argues that Obama lacks the experience of bargaining from the Cold War and labour disputes that hardened politicians in the past:

Now we are in the midst of a debt crisis that stems largely from Obama’s inability to accept the intransigence of his political opponents. Last December, he caved in to Republicans by supporting extension of the Bush tax cuts even though there is no evidence that they have done anything other than increase the deficit. There were those who told Obama that he ought to include an increase in the debt limit, but he rejected that idea, believing that Republicans would behave like responsible adults and raise the debt limit just as they did routinely when their party held the White House.

If you think that is a "partisan" analysis, note that Bartlett was an advisor to President Reagan.

Paul Krugman has been a regular, and increasingly vexed commenter on Obama's negotiation strategy:

It’s really hard to talk about this without getting into armchair psychoanalysis. I’ll try to refrain. But let’s just say that Obama’s continuing insistence on compromising, his continuing faith in bipartisanship despite two and a half years of evidence that these people don’t do compromise and will never make a deal, is looking obsessive and compulsive. It’s deeply frustrating.

And the most frustrating thing is that even when you start by moving more than half way to your opponent's position, the media will still report the ensuing efforts not to completely surrender as "partisan bickering".

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