Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Something to Think About.

This passage from one of Holbrooke's memos during the Vietnam war seems like a pretty good analysis of the state of play in the current war between Democrats and Republicans:

"Hanoi uses time the way the Russians used terrain before Napoleon's advance on Moscow, always retreating, losing every battle, but eventually creating conditions in which the enemy can no longer function," he wrote. "For Napoleon it was his long supply lines and the cold Russian winter; Hanoi hopes that for us it will be the mounting dissension, impatience, and frustration caused by a protracted war without fronts or other visible signs of success; a growing need to choose between guns and butter; and an increasing American repugnance at finding, for the first time, their own country cast as 'the heavy.' "

Unfortunately for us I don't think that the Democrats are Hanoi--using time like the Russians used terrain, giving up a battles but, long term, gaining the advantage. I think we are in a war of attrition in which the Republicans have successfully figured out that if they can just prevent the Democrats from winning anything publicly, and prevent the economy from recovering, the average voter will be so bewildered that they will have no idea who to blame (who is the "heavy") and simply return them to power.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Its Really Quite Simple.

Look, we have two separate problems as Democrats trying to run the country. 1) The Tax Cuts and 2) Running the Country. Because the Democrats don't understand the first thing about bargaining and negotiating we are in a massive crunch during this lame duck session. The Republicans have linked the tax cuts for millionaires to the entire Democratic governing agenda and basically said that if, and only if, they get what they want will they (possibly) allow the Democratic majority to get passed cloture and vote on DADT, DREAM, and everything else. The public and the blogs are running around with their hair on fire, to the extent that they even grasp what is happening, screaming that the Republicans either have to be given what they want or that we have to essentially burn the house down to get the legislation we want--that is sacrifice everything for the tax cuts. In fact, those geniuses at the White House are apparently debating just how badly to throw the game by extending the tax cuts to the most politically difficult next stage of the game while continuing to get nothing for it.

But the solution is really quite simple. Utterly simple. The Republican party--specifically the Senate--has demonstrated that they value the tax cuts for millionaires above all other things. In a real negotiation, with non morons on your side, this is an incredibly important piece of information. Reid and Obama should simply schedule the Tax Cut vote *that they want* for the last hours of the last day of the lame duck session. They tell the Republicans that if they refuse to vote for cloture on each and every one of the pending issues: DADT, DREAM, Judges, etc... then the vote on tax cuts simply never happens. The Bush tax cuts go away.

What's the downside of my approach? Nothing. At the moment the President and Reid's method amounts to allowing hostage taking, extortion, and brinksmanship by a number of key players (Brown, Snowe) who have shown themselves over and over again to be acting in bad faith. Under my system there would be no reward for bad faith negotiations just a straightforward quid pro quo: allow the business of government to go forward and the minority gets a shot at getting a vote on something it wants. Refuse to allow the business of government to go forward and the opportunity to keep low taxes on millionaires simply vanishes.

Now (some) Democrats will argue, apparently, that it will be fatal for Obama to allow the "Bush Tax Cuts" for the middle class to expire on his watch. But that assumes, as such arguments always do, that Obama and the Dems continue to lose the war of words that really is politics--that they throw the narrative down the drain. But they don't have to. To put it mildly: its a choice they make. If they put up a "Obama tax cut clock" on the floor of the Senate and have it count down "through the people's business" as the Republicans vote against cloture over and over again--well, the stories write themselves. Even if the tax cuts evaporate at midnight with the lame duck session from a political stand point its no harm/no foul. If middle class tax cuts are so important to the middle class Obama and the House Dems can run on middle class tax cuts for the next two years. Running on a clearly labled Obama/House Dem middle class tax cut is a much better ploy than running on "we kinda saved the Bush tax cuts for some people."

I can't believe the Democrats can't figure this out but I've been a Democratic voter and observer for a really long time. Yes, these people are just that stupid. They continually try to run on a "record of achievement" when all voters hear is "what will you do for me next." They fell right into this trap with HCR when they continually insist that the great legislative achievement of two years ago should determine how voters vote two years from now. As though getting us Social Security and Medicare guaranteed Democratic dominance with the two groups who use them the most. Well, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Grasp that the voters need to be told over and over again who is doing what to whom. Then go out and do it harder to the other guy.


Cross Posted at No More Mr. Nice Blog.