WILLIAMS: We, the people, are trapped on a ship of fools
Usually when two sides cannot come to an agreement, they can let an arbiter weigh their arguments and settle the dispute. Some arbiters try to find the optimum compromise, while others simply rule in favor of one side over the other.
Unfortunately for America, we have no arbitrator. Instead, we have two groups of buffoons flinging muck at each other. On one side, we have a group of Republicans in the House refusing to do anything unless Obamacare’s individual mandate is delayed or, better yet, defunded. On the other side, you have a Democratic Senate refusing to vote on any bills.
Traditionally, the president tries to act as the arbiter in such disputes, but President Obama refuses to entertain negotiations. He insists that House Republicans drop all their demands and give him free rein.
Does either side understand what a compromise is? In a negotiation, unless you are dealing with a fool, you never get everything you want. You must make concessions in order to move forward.
I am a businessman and can tell you that time and again, I have had to compromise to make a deal. By finding areas of agreement, negotiators can iron out contentious issues and find some kind of middle ground. I may not get everything I want, but I get enough to make the deal worthwhile for my associates and me.
The biggest difference between my business deals and the current shutdown squabble is that I can walk away if I think the deal is too skewed against me. By contrast, Mr. Obama, House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cannot walk away.
The Republicans’ idea of a compromise is to offer a delay rather than a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. This notion was the strategy behind passing both bills and sending them to the Senate, figuring the Senate obviously would reject defunding and negotiate on the delay.
But the Republican leadership is stupid. They could not foresee that Mr. Reid would bundle the bills and force up-or-down votes. They thought the looming deadline over raising the federal debt ceiling was leverage when, in actuality, their approach led to a corner into which they are blindly running.
They were also dumb enough to think they could beat the president and Democrats in a public relations war over the shutdown. In Washington and the media, political compromise means Republicans should capitulate to Democrats. Democrats standing on principle are “courageous,” while Republicans doing the same are “jihadists, arsonists and terrorists.” It has been this way for at least 30 years. To expect anything different is insanity.
In the Senate, Mr. Reid’s idea of a compromise is to demand that House Republicans pass a “clean” government funding bill that keeps everything exactly as it is. He knew perfectly well that stonewalling the House would lead to a government shutdown and was (rightly) confident that Democrats could win the media battle.
In the White House, Mr. Obama sat back and proceeded to act like an adolescent. He refused for a long time even to meet with Republican leaders to hammer out a compromise. He sends marching orders to the 83 percent of the government not closed to make the shutdown as obvious and painful as possible, just as he did earlier this year for the sequester cuts, but this time even more outrageously.
Never before in any of the previous 17 shutdowns has the Mall been closed, or seniors expelled from their homes, or scenic overlooks barricaded. The president is a man who thinks keeping his wife’s nutrition-based website up and running is essential, but the Amber Alert system, used to track missing children, is not.
Mr. Obama had to make the cuts more pronounced because few Americans noticed the sequester cuts. If America can run with fewer federal dollars, then perhaps the Republicans are right about smaller government.
Regrettably, Mr. Obama can afford to act this way. The press will not call him on his behavior, and his supporters are too doe-eyed to acknowledge that he is managing to be more of a child in this than even Republicans (and that takes a titanic effort).