About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hostage Negotiation

"And I’m confident that as we make tough choices about bringing our deficit down, as I engage in a conversation with the American people about the hard choices we’re going to have to make to secure our future and our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future, it will become apparent that we cannot afford to extend those tax cuts any longer."

That's a quote from President Obama's statement on Dec. 6 about his deal with Republican legislative leaders to undo The Great Republican Tax Increase of 2011.

Wow!

And then in his press conference on Dec. 7 to defend the deal, he says (and I'm paraphrasing, but I don't think misquoting) "no I don't think extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the American people think it's a bad idea, but since I haven't been able to persuade Mitch McConnell and John Boehner that it's a bad idea, I have to deal with that reality."

Wow, wow wow.

The Great Republican Tax Increase of 2011 was agreed to in 2001. Barack Obama has had his entire two year term to prepare the American people for it, or to eliminate the possibility of this Increase on his terms. Is there anyone in the world other than Barack Obama who believes he's going to start educating the American people on the benefits and drawbacks of the The Great Republican Tax Increase of 2011, when he hasn't done anything to do so in his first two years? If you need to prepare people for making difficult decisions, like let's say if I think I have a client who may be in need of a pseudonym, or even a good hard decision like needing to be sure a client has spine for getting a really great deal that can be theirs if they'll let it, I try my best to prepare for those things in advance.

"The hostage here was the American people, and I wasn't prepared to see them be harmed."

"The polls are on our side of this, the problem is the Republicans think this is the single most important thing that they have to fight for as a party."

So after the President has already caved, he has this nice news conference to finally start to educate people.

Maybe there is a big picture here, a longer view. Maybe by presenting himself as the voice of moderation now he can get the good will of the American people on other battles that will need to be fought. He did get some good things for everyone in the deal, including the extension of unemployment benefits and the payroll tax holiday. He did push through health care. But there as here, he tends to wait too long to show leadership, too long to frame the debate, too long to set a bottom line. And that's just not the way you negotiate. You need to be ahead of the curve and proactive and educating on a constant ongoing basis. I often disagreed with President Bush 2, but you had to respect his adamant ongoing refusal to negotiate with himself when it came to negotiating with congress.

So having the President actively defend today the tax policies that he's been AWOL defending for two years after he's caved on it -- it's not an inspiration. Lot's of things he could have done over those two years. Tried to do an Estate Tax deal more on his terms, tried to suggest his opposition was willing to take the American people as hostages. I'm sure people can find video here or there where he mentioned these things, but can anyone say he was in front of this parade? Can anyone really say that?

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