In the Arena

How to Negotiate

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The Republicans are, reportedly, outraged by President Obama’s opening bid in the fiscal cliff talks. Republicans always seem to be outraged. It’s getting boring. They need to step up and make a counter-offer.

That’s how people negotiate. In this case, they need to be specific about the spending cuts they want. When their specific initial offer is on the table, then you can haggle. (Of course, it’s entirely possible that all this is a smokescreen and actual haggling is taking place privately, between John Boehner and the President.)

But it is time to stow the Republican intemperance. It might have seemed “righteous” indignation when the GOP was deluding itself about representing a majority of Americans; now, it just seem puerile and petulant. Take, for example, this little outburst by Charles Krauthammer, in which the Administration’s opening bid is compared, unfavorably, to the unconditional surrender imposed on the South at Appamatox. Oh please. Does he really believe this infantile foot-stomping–the Republicans should walk out of the talks!–is going to be effective? Maybe so, given the fact that he’s lost his mind about so many other things in recent years.

What is difficult for the Fox talking heads to understand is this: We had an election. The President won. This gives him greater leverage than the last election we had, in 2010, when the President’s party lost. It isn’t absolute leverage, obviously, but it’s more than he had.  Wise Republicans know this score–and will negotiate as hard as they can to match the revenue increases with reasonable long-term entitlement cuts.

I suspect that we’ll go through the motions, clock ticking, right down thru Christmas week, creeping up till the New Year. Then we’ll have a last minute deal that includes slightly higher tax rates for the wealthy, entitlement cuts (including means-testing for old age entitlements)  and the promise to sit down and figure out a broader tax reform, reducing the corporate tax rate in return for loophole closings, next year.

But the assorted Republican drama queens seem so two months ago, don’t they?