After four years of lousy bills, or lack thereof, brought about through unnecessary concessions, it seems as though the President has finally learned something, at least: how to make an opening bid in a negotiation.
As Josh Marshall aptly described the two party's relative positions in the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" negotiations (the specifics of which are broken down by Ezra Klein at the bottom of this article for anybody, understandably, not paying attention to all of this silliness):
The take away here is that it's a welcome change of pace that Obama not only seems to understand his upper hand in these negotiations, but he's finally learned to actually negotiate on that basis this time around.
One of our earliest and most consistent complaints about Obama has been his embarrassingly dreadful negotiation skills. In fact, that was one of our earliest documented complaints about him, way back in April of 2007.
We were reminded once again about his lousy negotiation skills in August of 2011 when he gave away the store during that year's "hostage crisis," as Congressional Republicans were then holding the routine matter of voting to raise the debt ceiling --- and both the American and global economy along with it --- hostage to extreme spending cuts.
Here's what we wrote in 2011, harkening back to our initial warning about Obama's horrific negotiation skills back in 2007...
In short, he sold out his own caucus by showing their hand and thus paved the way for Bush to call their bluff with a veto without consequence. That's exactly what Bush did.
"I think that it's important for voters to get a sense of how the next president will make decisions in a foreign policy arena," he told AP.
Great. We've just gotten that "sense," and if that's your plan, then thanks but no thanks.
Yes, President Obama has been forced to deal with an unprecedented extremist GOP willing to use terrorist tactics to get their way, creating phony "hostage crises" time and again --- in the latest episode putting a gun to the head of the world economy. But negotiating with terrorists only ensures the likelihood of the bad guys taking another hostage in the future, which the Republicans have repeatedly done, and will continue to do. Capitulating to them, as he has now done time and again, is inexcusable.
What was clear to us as long ago as 2007 was that Obama was the worst. negotiator ever. His time in office to date has done nothing to assuage us of that initial assessment, as he has negotiated with himself and capitulated to terror tactics again and again, acceding to virtually ever demand of the hostage takers by the end.
From giving away the store with un-stimulating tax cuts in a much-smaller-than-needed stimulus package, to giving up away the public option (much less single payer) right off the bat in the health care reform bill, to capitulating on extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich earlier this year, and now accepting a "bargain" which tosses out everything he had formerly promised to be a "bottom line" for any debt ceiling deal, the President has done almost precisely as he projected he would 4 years ago when we pointed it out, so that we could "get a sense of how the next president will make decisions."
Happily, that was then and this is now. After four years of such capitulation, and with his concerns about running for re-election behind him, it seems President Obama has finally learned how to negotiate --- or, at least, make an opening bid in a negotiation. It remains to be seen how long he'll hang tough for his position before he starts negotiating with himself again. Signs, at the moment, suggesting that he plans to stay strong, however, are encouraging. But we'll see.
On Friday on MSNBC, Ezra Klein broke down the details of Obama's opening bid in the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" negotiations --- in which the President not only asked for all of the tax cuts and tax increases and additional stimulus spending that he wanted and that we need, and that he successfully ran on, without offering concessions before negotiations actually begin and before the GOP puts forward its own opening bid, forcing them to actually lay their cards on the public table first.
This, it seems, for now, is something that the President has finally learned after four years...