Last week I wrote that the argument over the debt ceiling was pure showmanship, that the Republican leadership fully intends to vote “yes” at the last minute, but that they’re taking things to the brink in order to extract more and more concessions from President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Andrew Leonard of Salon muses on whether Boehner is simply constitutionally incapable of making a deal: “The truth is that Boehner simply cannot make a deal. His caucus forbids it. Compromise with Obama would mean the end of his political career.”
Leonard is normally pretty astute, and it’s hard for me to believe he doesn’t see through Boehner’s act. After all, as the Salon article summarizes the debate so far,
Haven’t we been here before? Just two weeks ago, Obama was offering a package of spending cuts that made his own party extraordinarily nervous. Boehner walked away. This week, by all accounts, the president offered a deal even more generous, and spurred a near-revolt in his own party. Just 20 minutes before Obama’s press conference, Sen. Bernie Sanders called for him to be primaried! And now Boehner is walking away, again, declaring that the only basis for a deal has to be the Cut, Cap and Balance bill passed earlier this week by the House, but rejected Friday morning by the Senate.
And so we go around again. The only differences: There’s less time before the deadline hits, Republicans rejected an even better deal than they had been previously offered….
Well, yeah. That’s how negotiation works. You convince the other guy you’re more willing to walk away from the table than he is, so he’ll keep offering better and better deals. Boehner’s got a week to throw temper tantrums and pretend he’s going to torpedo the economy. That’s eons in legislative time. He’s seeing how much more he can squeeze out of Obama.
Obama, of course, has figured this out, and is starting to play the same game:
“If you do not have any revenues, if you have no revenues at all, what that means is more of a burden on seniors, more drastic cuts to education, more drastic cuts to research, bigger cuts to services for the middle class. It doesn’t ask anything of corporate jet owners, oil and gas companies, and people like me, who’ve done very well.” Republicans, he said, were demanding “a package that would effectively require massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and domestic spending, while not asking anything from the wealthiest of this country.”
“If that’s their only answer it’s going to be pretty difficult to figure out where to go.”
Translation: “If you don’t quit fucking around, maybe I’ll walk away from the table. And I’m betting the public will follow me.”
This is all tactical. In the end, Boehner will sell out the hardliners in his caucus, because not doing so would be to hand the Democrats 2012. But he’ll wring as much as he can out of Obama before he plunges the knife in.