Memo to Republicans: A gun to the head is not a negotiation

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An example of a negotiation:  You want to sell me, say, a cattle prod for $100, but I don’t want to pay $100, I want to pay $50.  You say, no can do on the $50, the least I’ll take is $75.  I say, $60.  You say, done.  Negotiation. And then there’s the non-negotiation:  You take out a gun, put it to my head, say, Give me $100 or I’ll shoot you dead.  Yeah, not exactly a negotiation.

gun at head

It’s quite a puzzle, why Republicans (largely House Republi-crazies) – who were crushed, humiliated and the big losers in the last two elections – seem to think they can bully, threaten and harass in order to dictate, direct and determine the course of our economy, the laws of our land and the full faith and credit of the United States, and then have the nerve to call it “negotiation.”  Even the winners of the last two elections, Democrats, don’t get to make unilateral decisions concerning all that stuff.  And negotiations, by definition, occur when two sides are interested in reaching an agreement.  A gun to the head – such as the “government shutdown” gun House Republicans are holding – isn’t a negotiation, it’s a hold-up.  But, like most hostage-takers, Republicans, in their rabid and irrational ideological fervor to create an untenable scenario for the President and Senator Reid, haven’t fully thought out the end game; and, as is true of most hostage-takers in a civilized society, there’s either an exit route to freedom, or there’s a dead end.

Yes, the overall strategy is quite a puzzler, but the tactics are clear.

The skinny is that House Republicans are putting together a laundry list of things they want – including a one-year delay in the Affordable Care Act, an overhaul of the tax code, construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, energy exploration on federal lands, a roll-back of environmental regulations, comfier coal and carbon regulations, and a “rework” of the 2010 Wall Street reform law, along with, of course, the defunding of Obamacare – in exchange for raising the debt ceiling and keeping the government running.  In short, Republicans are willing to shut down the government over what amounts to about 1.3% of federal spending, and are even willing to turn a blind eye to the fact that defunding Obamacare will actually increase the federal deficit. How quickly fiscal conservatism is forgotten in the face of ideological warfare.

Even with Ted Cruz’ marathon “fullofbluster,” House Republicans haven’t yet been able to pull off defunding Obamacare.  The Senate passed a spending bill (after removing the language the House included, defunding Obamacare), and President Obama and Harry Reid aren’t budging; it’s rumored there are no private talks, deals, or negotiations – they’re just saying “no” to any continuing resolution that defunds the ACA, and they’re saying “no” to negotiations on raising the debt ceiling.

The list of demands Republicans are making in exchange for the most historically basic of congressional moves – raising the debt ceiling, and passing spending bills – is so startling in its audacity that one wonders if Michele Bachmann didn’t find a way to contaminate the congressional water with her crazy-as-a-loon potion.  As Derek Thompson at The Atlantic noted, ” . . . [O]nce you get through them [the House debt-ceiling demands], you’ll be surprised they didn’t ask for free ice cream, a lifetime pass to Disneyland, and a bill to rename the capitol ‘The Reagan Dome.’”  Or, as Jay Carney quipped, “You know the only thing I didn’t see mentioned was a ‘birther bill’ to attach to it.”  Ted Cruz cruelly suggested targeting the military first, in the hopes of taunting the President and Senator Reid into a cave on Cruz’ rabid and irrational desire to defund and dismantle the historical Affordable Care Act.  Said Cruz, “If Harry Reid kills the bill in the Senate, the House should hold its ground, and should begin passing smaller continuing resolutions, one department at a time . . . It should start with a continuing resolution focused on the military . . . Send it over, see if Harry Reid is willing to shut down the military.”  Such a statement isn’t a negotiation tool, it’s a threat, a gun against the temples of America’s most valuable, honored and appreciated citizens – its soldiers. Give us what we want, Cruz essentially said, or our soldiers take the proverbial bullet.

Gangbangers doing drive-bys aren’t negotiating.  A bank robber holding people hostage isn’t negotiating.  Adam Lanza wasn’t negotiating at Sandy Hook, bin Laden wasn’t negotiating on 9/11, Aaron Alexis wasn’t negotiating at the Navy Yard, Wade Michael Page wasn’t negotiating at the Wisconsin Sikh temple, and Republicans aren’t negotiating now.  Their tactics amount to terrorism, and their “wish list” is nothing short of a ransom demand.

 

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