President Obama has probably repeated the phrase “balanced approach” when talking about budget and deficit solutions, over 100 times at this point. If you just listen to him saying that phrase over and over, you probably think that he is interested in raising some taxes, as well as cutting spending to solve our country’s debt problem. Perhaps he should play the tape back to himself, so that he can be convinced that the country needs a balanced approach to the problem that we find ourselves in. Fresh off getting a deal with Republicans around New Year’s that was exclusively tax increases, you would think that in order to obtain “balance”, spending cuts would be front and center. Instead this unbalanced President seems to have a case of amnesia, or worse, when it comes to the tax increase deal. He wants to act as if it never happened, and start with a “new balance”. The good news is Republicans can remember three months back.
When you want people to come your way in a negotiation, you try your best to be reasonable before the negotiations begin. Talk in generalities, and say things like “I know we can make a deal”. You don’t want to impugn the motives of you adversaries, because it will be that much harder to make a deal. This is vital in a public negotiation in order for all parties to claim victory, and not get resentful of the person they must strike a deal with. Then if discussions break down, you can claim that you were looking for a deal, and were reasonable all throughout the process. This approach allows you to claim credit for being honorable, and if you disparage your opponents, others will understand.
This President takes the exact opposite approach to what should be done. First, he makes his position public. This leaves little room for compromise without someone looking like they’ve lost. He then publicly attempts to bully his opponents into changing their stance. If that doesn’t work he goes out on the campaign trail to try to get the public to push his agenda. After this scorched earth policy doesn’t work, he resigns himself to trying to appear reasonable. This is completely unbelievable to his negotiating partners after they have been raked over the coals. Either he is the worst negotiator to ever sit in the White House, or he is unstable.
This past week there was the reconciliation phase of this reverse negotiation. The news was lit up with Presidential meetings and dinners with Republicans. Did any of those Republicans ask the President during dinner why he accused them of not caring about: children’s daycare; women’s mammograms; or seniors’ healthcare? Did they mention that they didn’t appreciate being blamed for the sequester (spending cuts), which was his idea? Did they ask why he demonizes their point of view that less government helps those in need? Probably not. They also probably weren’t forced into another tax increase just because the received a nice dinner.
If we combined the agreements over the fiscal cliff and the sequester, there would be no doubt that a balanced accord was reached. Somehow separating these two events by a mere 60 days has created a lack of balance in the President’s mind. Mr. Obama is not only dishonest, he is a dishonest broker.