by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Bear in mind as we spend the holidays on this precipice, that the “fiscal cliff” wasn’t born yesterday. It crawled out of its crypt in late 2011, after the Republican leadership and Mr. Obama—the deficit-reduction “super committee”—failed to negotiate essentially the same deal they are failing to get done now.
The inability of this Congress and this president to compromise on anything, now or at any time in the past four years, is itself a problem worthy of some thought.
Here’s one thought: The main reason there isn’t, and may never be, a solution on the fiscal cliff is that Barack Obama doesn’t know how to do a political compromise. Where in his career did Barack Obama ever learn the art of the political deal? Nowhere.
Recall the famous Blair House summit he called early in 2010 amid the legislating over ObamaCare. Lamar Alexander, Tom Coburn, Paul Ryan and other Republicans talked about wonkish compromises. All of it, every single idea, blew right by the president. Naturally the legislation got zero GOP votes. A kid running for high-school president could have gotten more opposition votes than that.
Presidents, kings, queens, generals all have accomplished a modus vivendi with their opponents and mortal enemies. Until now. What deal of Clintonesque majesty has Barack Obama ever pulled off?
The fiscal-cliff negotiation is a train driven by an engineer who doesn’t know how to use the brake, doesn’t know where the brake is and doesn’t care. His idea of politics is giving campaign speeches outside Washington to assemble a Sandy of public sentiment that will blow congressional Republicans off the cliff.
Politics ain’t beanbag, but it also isn’t just about politics. While Barack Obama may think his election mandate includes the ruin of the Republican Party, Republicans seeking a strategy of self-preservation should assert their refusal to participate in the ruin of the nation. As it is, the fiscal cliff has degenerated into a familiar Beltway melodrama in which the media reduce the whole thing to which party gets shafted. As to the health of the gasping American economy, well, whatever.