These budget negotiations were a giant win for the Republican Party. President Obama initially cut $40 billion from his own budget proposal -- and he got absolutely no credit for that. It was a very typical preemptive concession by the president. It was so typical, you wonder if he recognizes what an indisputably terrible strategy it is or if he has a different agenda.
So, after getting no credit for his original $40 billion concession, then the negotiations began at square one. The Republicans claimed in February that they wanted $32 billion in cuts from that point on. About a week ago, the president came out and announced that they had given the Republicans another $33 billion in cuts -- a billion more than they originally asked for. And still the Republicans wanted more.
Why not? They're dealing with the world's worst negotiator, why not ask for more? After February they came up with a brilliant good-cop, bad-cop strategy with the Tea Party, where they had the Tea Party force them to go to $61 billion in demands -- which pushed the spectrum out further to the right. They know President Obama will go to the middle of any spectrum, no matter how radical. And then, once they had baited Obama out to the $33 billion number, which was past their original goal, they baited him out even further. Finally, they got him to $38.5 billion in cuts an hour before the deadline.
So, in the end, he got no credit for the original giant cuts; he got no credit for going a billion past the Republican's wildest dreams and he had to give them an extra $5.5 billion to get a deal. But what he doesn't realize is that the shutdown would have been a disaster for the Republicans -- they never wanted that. They were playing him the whole time. When Boehner came back with the deal, he got a rousing ovation from his side, including the Tea Party faction.
It was a put on. The entire time the Tea Party was demanding the whole $61 billion, they were just playing their part in the game. They were the bad cop to make sure Obama made the deal with Boehner, the good cop. They must have had a good laugh at the end.
First, I want to make clear I am not a Monday morning quarterback. Anyone who watches me on The Young Turks or on MSNBC knows that I have been saying all along that Obama was going to fall for this trick and that he was going to go way past $33 billion. It's just who he is. He hates conflict. There almost isn't any deal you can't get him to sign off on. And that's my whole point for writing this -- we cannot have him do this next time!
Next time, the negotiations are over trillions, not billions. If he meets them more than halfway -- as he has done every single time now -- it will be a colossal disaster. Whenever Republican presidents try to cut Social Security or Medicare, they run into a brick wall. If the Republicans use President Obama to help them do that instead, then he will have done more damage than a Republican president can.
I hear from Democrats every single time that they'll fight the next time. And it's never the next time. Well, this time we've hit the wall. The next negotiations will be inarguably the most important. If the president obamas this (yes, I used it as a verb), it will be catastrophic.
Now, I want to ask even the most ardent Obama supporters -- do you really believe the president is going to hold strong the next time around? Even you don't believe that, right? It's not who he is. He will look to get past partisan politics. What's the only way to do that when one side is being obstinate? To give in to them. How many times have we seen this movie?
I didn't write this to rub it in the face of the feckless Democrats who always wind up playing the role of the Washington Generals to the Republican Globetrotters (remember the Democrats have the White House and the Senate -- but they let the GOP run the place like they are totally in charge). I wrote it to tell you how incredibly important it is that you put real pressure on the president from the left. He will move to the middle of any spectrum!
If you don't help push the spectrum to the left, the Republicans will move it massively to the right -- and the president will fall for it.
The whole point of the insane, draconian, ridiculous Paul Ryan budget proposal for next year was to move the spectrum all the way to the radical right, so that they can lure Democrats to a false middle, that is in reality the far right.
It's time to stop playing nice with Democrats. Good-cop, good-cop doesn't work. We need a bad cop. We need a strong progressive wing to keep shouting "no deal!" every time the White House wants to concede (which will be every time).
You can ignore this, blame me and go hug the president one more time, but you won't be doing your side any favors. If you actually care about policy and progressive priorities, you must get tough with the president right now. There is no next time.