U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew appeared on CNN’s State of the Union, which aired on Sunday morning, where host Candy Crowley interviewed him about the potential effects of the government shutdown, the oncoming debt ceiling, and whether or not President Obama has more of a responsibility to negotiate, because he is the president.
“If it is as bad as you say it would be, if this happens, if they don’t raise the debt ceiling—Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling by the 17th, why wouldn’t the president come to the negotiating table?”
“If it’s going to ruin, if it’s going to shake the world markets, if it’s going to ruin our credit worthiness, if it’s—you know; we’re the superpower, we can’t be not paying our debts, if it’s that vital, why isn’t he at the bargaining table saying: ‘What can we do here?’”
Lew responded and said:
“Candy, I think you know that the president has been, is and will always be looking for that way to negotiate to find the sensible, middle ground.”
“He did it in 2011, he did it last year, he did it this year in his budget, where he put forward tough polices.”
Crowley then interjected and said:
“But this is so dire, why not do it again?”
Lew continued on and said:
“I don’t think the leadership in Congress wanted a government shutdown. They ended with a government shutdown because of the tactics of an extreme group trying to say that we are willing to do real damage if we don’t get our way.”
“The president’s message is clear. Congress needs to do its job. They need to open the government, they need to make us so we can pay our bills, and then we need to negotiate.”
Seemingly unimpressed by Lew’s statement, Crowley said:
“But if Congress doesn’t, the president still won’t sit down? It just seems like a dual message here. It’s really, really important. Horrible things are going to happen if this isn’t fixed, but I’m not going to negotiate.”
But as Lew would then point out to Crowley, that in 2011 during that debt ceiling debate, almost all of the “same 50 to 100 members” of Congress who have initiated this government shutdown were just as reckless then, when it came to the real possibility of a default by the United State government.
“I’ve been through a lot of budget debates. I’ve been though a lot debt ceiling debates—never did I hear people who said if I don’t get my way it’s better to default. That’s not acceptable.”
So should President Obama negotiate with the Republicans? Is Crowley right when she implies that the president has more of a responsibility to give up more whenever a dysfunctional Congress decides that it’s time to play chicken with the economy?
And according to the recent history of these negotiations, it would likely mean that Obama would be giving political ground so the Republicans will agree to re-open the government, but is that really a deal-making outcome?
For the Republicans it would be, but not so much for the Obama administration. If the government is allowed to re-open, the country is restored back to where it was.
But if the perquisite for that happening is the delaying or the defunding of Obamacare, the Obama administration is not restored back to where it was. It will actually be forced to take a few steps backwards, which would be another negotiating win for the Republicans and the Tea Party.
In a negotiation, each side is supposed to get something out of the deal, but it’s like Lew tried to explain to Crowley. When a negotiation is based on an ultimatum, the likely outcome is based almost solely on one side giving in, not both sides hammering out something mutually beneficial.
So if the Obama administration does decide to take Crowley’s advice and give some political ground to the Republicans and the Tea Party for the good of the country, here is something that President Obama and the Democrats might consider asking for.
If the president agrees to give the Republicans and the Tea Party what they both want, which is the delaying of Obamacare for about a year, then the gun happy Republicans and the 2nd Amendment groupies of the Tea Party have to be willing to pass legislation that would allow for universal background checks for five consecutive years in regard to purchasing firearms here in the United States.
Now Republicans and conservatives won't be happy with that part of the deal, but they probably should take it, because compared to the disabling consequences of the shutdown, the debt ceiling and the Republican’s claims of the health care horrors of Obamacare’s socialized medicine, universal background checks for firearm purchases looks like a walk in the political park.
Based on how the Republicans and the Tea Party have been rigidly unwilling to budge on universal background checks for firearm purchases, while the president has been politically unwilling to budge on Obamacare, this kind of a deal would allow both sides to show the American people and the world the real definition of a negotiation and how it differs from the political meaning of the words "holding the country hostage."