Opinion | President Obama should learn the art of negotiation during government shutdown
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 01:10
Government shutdowns happen. In fact, in the last 40 years, every president except George W. Bush has had to deal with at least one. The thing that is different about this latest shutdown is that President Obama has decided he will not negotiate – period.
Obama even went as far as to call President Hassan Rouhani and negotiate with the Iranians, a nation that supports terrorist activities and props up merciless dictators like Bashar Assad, before calling the Speaker of the House.
Now the President, a recipient of the Noble Peace Prize, probably has a good reason for this, but I don’t understand his reasoning nor do I think any of his predecessors would understand either.
Take Ronald Reagan for instance. During the eight shutdowns he had to deal with, he was always willing to negotiate – even when it was the Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill who had shutdown the government.
Reagan knew that good could come out of a shutdown. He knew that a shutdown presented an opportunity to smooth over differences and move the country forward. And that’s exactly what he did, passing tax reform deals and compromising on spending levels.
But today, President Obama doesn’t think there is any reason to negotiate. And to add insult to injury, the president’s own senior advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, has even likened the House Republicans to terrorists, saying that they are “not for negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest.”
Funny, so far it has been the House Republicans who have tried to ease the pain of the shutdown and pass spending bills – not the Senate Democrats. Just last week, the House passed three separate resolutions to fund the District of Columbia, the NIH and keep the national parks open.
It would seem the people accused of having bombs strapped to their chests are the ones being reasonable here—not Harry Reid, who has refused to take up any of the House passed measures on the Senate side, nor the President who has threatened a veto should anything but a clean continuing resolution (CR) find its way to his desk.
I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise since the president’s preferred style in these fiscal fights seems to be to inflict as much unnecessary pain and hardship on the good people of this nation as possible.
It was during the last showdown, sequestration, that President Obama closed the White House to everyone including sixth graders. Magically, the president seems to have found a way to sink even lower than that this time around, making World War II veterans break down barricades just to access the memorials honoring their service and sacrifice.
Now, if the country is going to get back on track, the president will stop the petty politics at play here and roll up his sleeves to start negotiating like Reagan and the presidents before him.
Already, the Speaker has signaled to the White House that he can’t do a clean CR but that there is an opportunity here to revive the grand bargain – a big deal that not only funds the government but also reforms our overly complicated tax code and reforms government spending.
The only problem is that the president and the Senate Democrats seem uninterested in dealing.
They know that any grand bargain is going to include provisions that weaken the Affordable Care Act. They know that repealing the wildly-unpopular medical device tax could gain traction on the left as well as the right. And that is why the president balks at the bigger deal and continues to refuse to engage in negotiations – demanding a clean CR.
If it was the unreasonable Republicans that shutdown the government over Obamacare, it is President Obama himself who refuses to do the reasonable thing because of Obamacare.
I hope that as the nation creeps closer and closer toward bumping up against the debt ceiling, the spirit of negotiation makes its way back to the White House and President Obama finds the will to lead – the will that guided Ronald Reagan and the men before him.