A PERMANENT SPOT ON THE DECK OF THE ARIZONA

Imagine a guy walking into a used car dealership. He feels that the key to getting a good deal is to be kind and negotiate in good faith with the salesman, because obviously both parties involved want the same thing. The salesman wants to move a car and the buyer wants a car at a good price. He tells the salesman, "Just be honest with me. If you level with me and point me toward a car that isn't a lemon, I'll buy it without trying to bust your balls on the price." In other words, I'll give you what you want – the money – if I get one thing that interest me in return. My good-faith gesture establishes trust, and treating you like an honest person who will follow through on an agreement increases the odds that you will act like one.

99% of the time this guy is driving away with the biggest lemon on the lot, the car that the salesman can't pawn off on anyone else. The car that the dealership thought they'd never find a sucker to take. Why? Because the salesman doesn't give a shit about the buyer. All he wants is the money. He's a shark. Every fish in the ocean knows that if they have to deal with him, they can't trust him. The ones that do don't live long enough to learn from their mistake.

Anyone naive enough to trust a used car salesman probably shouldn't be entrusted with the task of buying a used car. The only way to deal with the situation is to walk into the dealership with the explicit understanding that the salesman is going to try to screw you and he can't be trusted any farther than he can be thrown. But let's say you're an optimistic soul and you decide to let your sunny view of human nature prevail. You try to negotiate with him in good faith and end up with a lemon. You certainly wouldn't make the same mistake a second time, would you? How big of a fool would you have to be to do that?

Take that fool, let him repeat the mistake 15 or 20 times, and you'd be Barack Obama.

As John Cole implies, watching the President play this "If I reach out in a sufficiently bipartisany manner, surely the GOP will work with me in good faith" game is beyond old. It's getting embarrassing to watch him play Charlie Brown in the Lucy and the Football skit. Obama organizes feel-good meeting and kisses John Boehner / Mitch McConnell's ass. Obama promises concessions in return for GOP cooperation. GOP takes concession and then refuses to cooperate anyway. Rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. It's humiliating enough to watch him trade $200 billion in upper class tax cuts for a $25 billion extension in unemployment benefits. I lack the adjective to describe watching him fail to get even the meager concession.

When is it going to sink in with this guy? These people hate you. You cannot "work with" them because they do not care about you. They are not interested in playing nice with you. They want to do bad things to you. They are not to be trusted, because they have no reservations about lying to you. They will promise you something in good faith and then laugh at you for being stupid enough to trust them. This is all very obvious. And he's just. not. getting it. All of the playing nice in the world isn't going to matter. Every reaching-out ends the same way: with the GOP holding a gun to his agenda, saying "Give us what we want if you want to see it live," and then putting a bullet through it anyway.

And then they go on TV and tell people he won't work with them. Followed by him going on TV like a whipped puppy and apologizes for not trying hard enough to please them.

Sometimes the best negotiator in the world is going to get screwed. If you have no bargaining power, there really isn't much you can do. If you're Japan at the end of World War II, you can hardly be criticized for a failure to get concessions out of the Allies. I mean, you just don't have any leverage. You have to take whatever you can get. That's exactly the same position that a bad negotiator is in all the time, because if he has any bargaining power he won't be smart enough to realize it. Or he'll trip over himself giving it away. He'll piss it away on trusting someone no reasonable person would trust. He'll start making concessions immediately because he's not smart enough to realize he doesn't have to.

Then he'll do it again, most likely because he's an idiot.

51 thoughts on “A PERMANENT SPOT ON THE DECK OF THE ARIZONA”

  • this is also called the "if I kiss your a$$ hard enough, will you stop kicking mine" game. The answer to which is: on the contrary, the harder you kiss the harder I kick back. And for some reason Obama never catches on.

  • Great article, as usual, but I'm still trying to figure out the title… Is Obama a sailor at Pearl Harbor, trusting in his traitorous Japanese allies?

  • Really he just needs a simple adjustment. This approach would work on/with 90% of Democrats on 90% of issues. If they took this approach with the section of his party that doesn't agree with him, he might go into discussions with Republicans with a solid block of Democrats backing him. Wouldn't that be novel?

    For the life of me, and for all his failings in other areas, I don't know why Rahm Emmanuel didn't explain this well enough for the President to get it.

  • I can't help but wonder if Obama actually, sincerely believes in bipartisanship, and is personally committed to trying as hard as he can to make it work.

    In some ways, it would be preferable if he were a true idealist, instead of just, you know…naive.

  • I am actually starting to believe that he wants the exact things the republicans want, but has to at least "pretend" he is for the people to at least make it seem like there are two political parties and two choices.

    But really, its one and the same. Only bad and worse. Again, if he actually did stand on democratic party principals he wouldn't have select Summers, Gaithner, Bernacke (terrible spelling) to run economic policy, the single most important issue. And the Reps had nothing to do with that. He did it on his own with Rohm pushing the way to more of the same.

    So again, I get the feeling this is all a puppet show at this point.

    I lived in Eastern Europe under Communism, and just like that was all a stage show by rich and powerful, so is this now here in US. Different labels (Communism, Conservatism, whatever) still the same puppet show.

  • Here's a different thought. As the pundits often point out, much of what goes on in Washington is Kabuki. But what if this is true in a different way? We wonder what happened to the hopey-changey guy, the confident, bold new leader who has morphed into a whipped puppy?

    I never considered B. Hoover Obama to be any kind of liberal, with his connections to big finance and reverence for St Ronnie of Senility. What I didn't realize is that he isn't a luke-warm liberal. He's a paleoconservative. In a world that made sense, he'd actually be a Republican. He isn't giving in as much as he's gravitating to the positions he actually believes in – not the ones we want him to believe in.

    His campaign and all that quasi-progressive rhetoric was a sham. He's a Republican mole. It's the biggest bait and switch in history. All the rest is theater.

    WASF,
    JzB

  • I agree 100%

    Take no prisoners and ask no quarter. Elections have consequences and it is now September 1945 in the people's house.

    When fancy Nancy won, she and the Big B and Prince Harry drove it like they stole it. Fine w/ me.

    If you study our history, the system has always been fiercely adversarial. Oh and BTW – no one has been caned to death recently over their politics.

    I don't even like Rs (I like Ds less), but I think they are in a position where they better listen up or their party will be ripped apart for 2012.

    //bb

  • The Man, The Myth says:

    I read Obama's second book (not the father one, the politics one) and one of its messages for me was to say that, in the past people were civil with one another and Politicians would routinely compromise over a beer and a game of poker in the evening. I would point to the changes from the past to the present, today New England Republicans are almost an extinct species (just the Maine ladies in the Senate? for how long?), and southern Democrats basically are discouraged from voting and are not elected. The fact Obama doesn't see this is bizarre, how much did the dude with the mustache get paid to appear on tv and praise him while designing a great political strategy to win an election? Don't we always complain that Republicans are great at winning elections on dumb issues like gay marriage but can't govern very well? Is it the same with Obama? He can win an election but not govern? We need to have philosophers as kings!

  • Elder Futhark says:

    It might be a mystery. Then again, it could be a highly elaborate prank.

    Barry is not only the smartest guy in the room, he's the smartest in just about any room. But I've known people like that, and there is a certain compartmentalization of competency that comes, I suppose, from having only three pounds of hamburger to work with upstairs.

    If it were me, Boehner would have woken up next to a dead prostitute in Vegas two years ago. McConnell would find a horse's head on his Sleep Number mattress.

    Maybe this will happen. Ain't seeing it.

  • Being a smart guy doesn't mean you are a canny guy — yet I have a very hard time believing that anyone walks out of Chicago politics with sunny, simplistic idealism as a tool for accomplishing his goals. I suspect Obama chose bad advisors, failed to appreciate the timeline of his leverage, and mistakenly assumed other Democrats would support him rather than themselves — among other things.

    But I disagree with the assumptions in your used car analogy. Walking in with a "fuck you imma get mine" attitude doesn't make you a smarter shopper, capisce? You still won't know what the man is selling you, or whether it's a good deal; you just make it clear he should use Sales Pitch B (making a show of reluctance, resentfully allowing your profit to be shaved, ruefully shaking your head as the sucker signs on the line) instead of Sales Pitch A (smooth talking seducer) or Sales Pitch C (hardselling persuader.)

  • We need to break up the duopoly of politics. Unless you are Uber-Rich, the Regressive Party will fuck you every time. Trying to the Demwits to work together is like herding cats. We need a party that will work for the people and against the owners of the country. The ones that have bought and paid for the politicians.

  • Let's be honest, the South has been running this country into the ground since the Civil Rights Movement. The GOP is owned by the South. One might say that the political dynamics in this country are characterized by an urban vs rural divide. While this may be true from a cultural and economic standpoint, from a purely political perspective, the political landscape still resembles the political environment of the late 1700s when the Pennsylvania Quakers tried to persuade the South to free their slaves. At that time, in the new Congress, the South essentially threatened war if the North chose to press the issue. So the North let it drop until, by 1860, “compromise” was no longer possible, ie. The North could no longer accept the fact that the South had been playing them for 60 plus years. In the 1800s, they held the North hostage with their need for slaves. Now, in the 1900s and early 2000s, they hold the North hostage with their militarism and oil addiction. It is ironic that a man so friggin clueless about the true historical political dynamics of this country would, at the outset, model his presidency after a man, Lincoln, who, at the end of the day, knew that compromise with these types of people is not possible and that open warfare was the only solution. This might be the only characteristic, his willingness to finally lay down the gauntlet, that still connects Lincoln to the modern GOP. Obama is a fool. From day one, I told folks that by 2050 historians will note that his greatest achievement was simply in getting elected. The time for compromise with these people is over just as it was in 1860.

  • Excellent article, but I wonder if the author is mixing up his WWII battleships. Arizona is sitting at the bottom of Pearl Harbor as the centerpiece of the war memorial, the deck of the Missouri was where MacArthur stood over the Japanese delegate while they signed the surrender documents to end the war.

  • Reich is, in my opinion, one of the few public figures who still has interest in telling it like it is. His latest missive is so friggin right on, especially the last part where he concludes that Obama's compromises are simply setting up the GOP for more wins because he's allowed them to establish their lopsided narrative in the minds of many easily fooled Americans. Obama has this idea that Americans are logical animals. They are not. Many are simply chimps that know how to clothe themselves. They do not respond to reason. They respond to force and compulsion.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/post_1362_b_790614.html

  • Monkey Business says:

    Bipartisanship should have consisted of "We're gonna do what we want, you guys can go fuck yourselves, because we run everything now."

    We need a liberal Andrew Breitbart. Someone to get in the dirt and throw a few punches. Someone dedicated to the destruction of the GOP and Conservatism in America. Someone that's not afraid to toss around a few dead hookers, leave a horse head in someone's bed, that kind of thing.

    Until then, the GOP is gonna keep wiping the floor with us. We're never gonna out reason them; they don't need or want reason. We're never gonna out truth tehm; they don't need or want truth.

  • Many wags have been saying the same thing for several weeks, Ed, but as usual you said it best. It still hurts to hear our leader called an idiot, but at this point it doesn't much matter. He has to realize that he's losing his base in big numbers these days. A one-termer for sure. Next up, President… Romney?

  • Truth Anybody? says:

    Obama never went with good faith anywhere. All I recall him doing is whining about George Bush and unilaterally passing disastrous legislation. After two years of political unilateralism he rightfully had his ass handed to him by voters. Now the sycophants are all up in arms because they have to come down from their Obama altar and face reality. He can either capitulate and have a chance to ruin this country by serving another term, or lose the next election.

  • Shorter Truth troll:

    Remember kids: the voting system that has run this country for hundreds of years only counts when it votes in things I like. When it votes in things I don't like, it's suddenly tyranny.

  • I think you're deluded that Obama is this liberal to actually want everything you state he wants. This is the guy who supported FISA.

    Ultimately Obama is the used car salesman and you're the guy buying the lemon.

  • Aslan Maskhadov says:

    "After two years of political unilateralism he rightfully had his ass handed to him by voters."

    Unilaterally passed WHAT, you moron?

  • Aslan, it works like this.

    1) Obama says "I have an idea, but I know no one will like it, so here's a compromise".
    2) Right goes on TV and says "We don't like it, give us this."
    3) Obama gives it to them.
    4) Right goes on TV and says "We don't want that, give us this too."
    5) Obama gives to them.
    6-to-infinity-minus-one) Repeat steps 4 and 5.
    Infinity) Guy sitting at home has just seen the right throw temper tantrums for months straight and is really, truly convinced that Obama isn't giving them anything they want.

  • That's all well and good, and I might even agree, but honestly, what's the alternative? Get all butthurt and start going after the Republicans is going to accomplish what? They've already proven that they're perfectly happy to do absolutely nothing for indefinite amounts of time. Given our post-dumb electorate delivering them a congressional majority, what other avenue besides ass-kissing is going to get so much as a budget passed?

    This is the political system we have, and I'm on record as saying it's obselete, but until we get that constitutional convention fired up, what are all these alternatives we have? And do it without assuming that you can get more than a handful of Democrats on board with any single strategy including pizza toppings.

  • My Dad was a mechanic, not a political scientist, but when I came home from college all fired up about politics (Bush the elder was in the white house), my Dad sadly told me. "Boy, there ain't but one political party in this country– the big business party. And they ALWAYS win."

  • @HoosierPoli: Pols can be shamed into action, and if the Dems can take charge of the narrative they can make the Regressives look like the plutocrat whores they really are. But that is a big IF at this point.

  • @jjack

    "Also I wonder when Obama got his ass handed to him by voters, I missed that election."

    I don't think I'm being too slack here when I say (w/o references) that it was all over the MSM that Mr Obama declared (more than once) that his agenda was on the ballot this November past.

    If you wanna be a pedant, you are absolutely correct that the name B Hussein Obama appeared on no ballots no where.

    //bb

  • " Pols can be shamed into action, and if the Dems can take charge of the narrative they can make the Regressives look like the plutocrat whores they really are. But that is a big IF at this point."

    So your plan hinges on the assumption that the Republicans can feel shame.

    Good luck with that.

  • BB:

    I don't buy the argument that since the Democrat-voting minority in Bumfuck, Wherever weren't enthusiastic enough about their Republican-fellating quasi-Democratic Congressman to turn out to save his worthless career, that it necessarily follows that voters on the coasts are fed up with Obama's agenda. And last I checked the state of Wherever doesn't count for a lot of electoral college votes.

    In most of the places where it counts, where there were incumbents running who actually supported what could be perceived as "the Obama agenda" instead of selling it out to the GOP, those incumbents won. So I would say that's a pretty good referendum.

  • So, to sum up w/o the sexual and scatological references…

    The 60+ seat butt whuppin' in the HoR doesn't count for anything because the Ds who were true believers in the BHO agenda won. Most of the Ds who lost were those worthless Blue Dogs.

    Is that about it?

    //bb

  • No, the 60+ seat butt-whuppin doesn't count because it was engineered on pure fiction with a dash of hypocrisy. Democracy does not reality make.

  • Dave in Austin says:

    Here Charlie Brown, I'll hold the football and you run up and kick it. I promise I won't pull it away like I always do. Trust me!!

  • Initially, I was with Ed. But upon reading the comment thread, I am now thinking something along the lines of –

    Fuck, people! What are you suggesting here?

    1. That O. takes on the biggest, baddest, roll-in-the-gutter-gouging-eyes Champions Of The World at their own game? And somehow, he's supposed to BEAT them? Are you fucking serious?

    2. That he push his agenda so far to the left (U.S. translation = slightly right of centre) that he alienates the "swing voters" who elected him?

    3. That he *somehow* herd the DemoCats into a solid support base (while never pandering to the blue dogs)?

    4. That he somehow controls the narrative, despite Faux News, et al. openly declaring war on him and his leadership?

    WTF? The U.S. was crashing ER patient when he came to office. He's there to stop the fucking bleeding, not cure the patient and wash his fucking car to boot! On that scale, I think he's doing OK (not great, but OK).

    Wow, that all seems very angry on a reread. But I'm going to leave it as is, and just send it out with a reminder that I love youse all, I just don't agree with most of you on this particular point.

  • Maybe the solution is to call their bluff. You want to hold the unemployed hostage? Sure! Screw 'em. But I'll constantly point the blame squarely at you.

    You want to raise taxes on 98% of the population to protect your buddies in the top 2%? Fuck it, we'll tax 'em all!

    While we're at it, let's let the Republicans in the Senate refuse to raise the debt ceiling. So what is a couple million social security recipients don't get their checks. Suck on it, Gramps.

    While we're at it, let's let the military take a hit. After all, these obedient servants don't need paychecks.

    Make people realize just how important a functioning government is to their lives and we might actually have some real discourse in this country again.

    Shut it down and watch the tea baggers panic.

    I welcome the chaos.

  • @Nunya – "Make people realize…"

    That's where you went wrong. There is no 'realising' for these people. None of the chaos that ensued from Shrub's presidency bothered anyone on the right. It was all just a case of… ah fuck, I forget. Maybe bb can help us out. Who's fault was 2000-2008? Bill Clinton? Jimmy Carter? Those damn hippies?

    With apologies to jzb -WASVF!

  • Paul W. Luscher says:

    Well, there's a reason I'm starting to call him "President Neville Chamberlain."

    Or maybe he really WANTS to go that way. As the one guy said in the movie "Inside Job," Obama's administration is a "Wall Street government."

  • baldheadeddork says:

    I don't think Obama is an idiot. It's worse than that – I think he's doing this on purpose.

    I first noticed Obama in 2004 early in his Senate run. (I lived in northern Indiana, the Chicago Tribune was my main paper.) I dug around online and found this 1995 interview with the Chicago Reader, when he was making his first run for office in the Illinois state senate. This part in particular jumped out at me, and I think you'll understand why I haven't forgotten it since.

    Obama added that as important and inspiring as it was, the (Chicago mayor Harold) Washington administration also let an opportunity go by. "Washington was the best of the classic politicians," Obama said. "He knew his constituency; he truly enjoyed people. That can't be said for a lot of politicians. He was not cynical about democracy and the democratic process

  • @eau

    "4. That he somehow controls the narrative, despite Faux News, et al. openly declaring war on him and his leadership?"

    Who has declared "war" on whom?

    In my memory (could be faulty here) Pres Obama and Pres Clinton are unusual in calling out a private citizen (Mr. Limbaugh) for political scorn as well as actions directed Fox (Obama Admin), not only words. Sen Reid also did the same thing. Maybe selective memory on my part.

    What is it about Faux that bunches so many boxers here? On a good day they compete w/ the sorry assed CBS news.

    The brag from ABC used to be "More people get their news from ABC News than from anywhere else." I think that is still true w/ the mainstream guys pulling in about 15 million daily (used to be 20+.)

    Young 'uns watch Stewart and Colbert for their news.

    Fox runs straight news from about 9 am to 8 pm less the Beck hour. They blow away the other cable outlets, but so what? They draw in the single digit millions for their highest rated programs which are opinion based: Beck, O'Reilly, and Hannity. Greta is less opinion oriented and more tabloid style news and items of "interest"(Is Natalie still dead? And who really gave Anna Nicole her drugs?).

    The only time they really show up the MSM guys is at election time and they include a significant cadre (Hennican, Colmes, Beckel, blah, blah, blah) of liberals and Democrats as commentators as well as the usual suspects.

    He'p me please…

    //bb

  • @jzb – You are correct, and most gracious. Cheers.

    @bb – I'm afraid it is not within my power to help you.

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