At Monday night's prime-time press conference (transcript) at the White House, President Obama was asked by NPR's Mara Liasson what he'd learned from his "experience with the stimulus" package, in regard to "future challenges" he will face, legislatively.
The key part of his answer: "I suppose what I could have done is started off with no tax cuts, knowing that I was going to want some, and then let them take credit for all of them. And maybe that's the lesson I learned."
Uh, ya think? Yeah, giving away the store, by negotiating with oneself --- by handing billions of dollars in tax cuts to Republicans, before they'd even asked for it --- is something we long ago learned in Negotiations 101. Apparently Obama skipped class that day.
While we do hope he's learned from it, we coulda seen the disaster coming for miles. In fact, we did --- way back in the early part of 2007 when he did something similar, causing us to post serious reservations about his negotiation and decision making skills at the time.
We were even quoted on it, at the time, by Brit Hume on Fox "News"...
In April of 2007, after Obama had declared his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for President, we were highly critical of him for having shown the Senate Democrats' hand during negotiations with the White House over whether a troop withdrawal timeline would be included as part of the first Iraq spending bill to move through Congress since the Dems had taken over the majority.
Bush had promised to veto the bill, if it contained any timeline requirements, and Obama, while the negotiations were in the middle of being played out, told an interviewer that he believed Senate Dems would vote to fund the Iraq War anyway, even without the timeline requirements.
In the bargain, he gave away his (and the Dems') negotiating leverage and thus, the entire store.
He further told AP at the time, that he thought it was "important for voters to get a sense of how the next president will make decisions." He did. And we slammed him for it, even as some partisans were highly critical of our having done so. Markos at DailyKos also slammed him, and both of us were quoted, in turn --- as "liberal bloggers" who had "turn[ed] on Obama" --- by the opportunistic Brit Hume, as Fox "News" used it for propaganda, naturally. (Video at right).
Of course, as we hadn't offered public support for Obama in the first place (and don't feel particularly "liberal"), it was difficult to have "turned" on him, but that's Fox, and another story entirely.
Nonetheless, it was little surprise when Obama gave away the store on the stimulus bill, his first major negotiation with Republicans, before negotiations even began. Let's just hope he has, as he told Liasson last night, learned from it!
Liasson's question and President Obama's answer, follows below...
What do you think you're going to have to do to get more bipartisanship? Are you going to need a new legislative model, bringing in Republicans from the very beginning, getting more involved in the details yourself from the beginning, or using bipartisan commissions? What has this experience with the stimulus led you to think about when you think about these future challenges?
OBAMA: Well, as I said before, Mara, I think that old habits are hard to break. And we're coming off an election and I think people want to sort of test the limits of what they can get. There's a lot of jockeying in this town and a lot of who's up and who's down and positioning for the next election.
And what I've tried to suggest is that this is one of those times where we've got to put that kind of behavior aside, because the American people can't afford it. The people in Elkhart can't afford it. The single mom who's trying to figure out how to keep her house can't afford it. And whether we're Democrats or Republicans, surely there's got to be some capacity for us to work together --- not agree on everything, but at least set aside small differences to get things done.
Now, just in terms of the historic record here, the Republicans were brought in early and were consulted. And you'll remember that when we initially introduced our framework, they were pleasantly surprised and complimentary about the tax cuts that were presented in that framework. Those tax cuts are still in there. I mean, I suppose what I could have done is started off with no tax cuts, knowing that I was going to want some, and then let them take credit for all of them. And maybe that's the lesson I learned.