Usually when two sides cannot come to an agreement, they can let an arbiter weigh their arguments and settle the dispute. Some arbiters try to find the optimum compromise, while others simple rule in favor of one side over the other.
Unfortunately for America, we have no arbitrator. Instead, we have two groups of buffoons flinging muck at each other. On one side, we have a group of Republicans in the House refusing to do anything unless Obamacare’s individual mandate is delayed or, better yet, defunded. On the other side, you have the Democrat Senate refusing to vote on any bills.
Traditionally, the president tries to act as the arbiter in such disputes, but Obama refuses to entertain negotiations. He insists that the House GOP drop all their demands and give him free reign.
Does neither side understand what a compromise is? In a negotiation, unless you are dealing with a fool, you never get everything you want. You must make concessions in order to move forward. I am a businessman and can tell you that time and again, I have to compromise to make a deal. By finding areas of agreement and contention, we can iron out those issues and find some kind of middleground. I may not get everything I want, but I get enough to make the deal worthwhile for both my associates and me. The biggest difference between my business deals and the current shutdown squabble is that I can walk away if I think the deal is too skewed against me.
Obama, Boehner, and Reid cannot walk away.
The GOP’s idea of a compromise is to offer a delay rather than liquidate the Affordable Care Act. This notion was the strategy behind passing both bills and sending them to the Senate, figuring that the Senate would obviously reject defunding and negotiate on the delay.
But Republican leadership is stupid. They could not foresee that Reid would bundle the bills and force an up-or-down vote for both or either all at once. They thought the debt ceiling deadline was leverage when, in actuality, it was a corner into which they were blindingly running.
They were also dumb enough to think they could beat the president and Democrats in a PR war over the shutdown. In Washington and the media, political compromise means the Republicans should capitulate to the Democrats. Democrats standing on principle are “courageous,” while Republicans doing the same are “jihadists, arsonists and terrorists.” It has been this way for at least 30 years and remains so. To expect anything different is insanity.
In the Senate, Harry Reid’s idea of a compromise is to demand that the GOP pass a clean continuing resolution that keeps everything the same as it is. He knew perfectly well that stonewalling the House would lead to a shutdown and was rightly confident that the Democrats could win the media battle.
Over in the White House, the president sat back and proceeded to simply be an adolescent. He refuses to even meet with Republican leaders to hammer out a compromise. He sends out marching orders to the 83 percent of the government not actually shut down to make the shut down as obvious and painful as possible, just as he had done earlier this year for sequestration but even more outrageously.
Never before in any of the previous 17 shutdowns has the National Mall been closed, seniors forcibly expelled from their homes or scenic overlooks been barricaded. This is a man who thinks keeping his wife’s nutrition-based website up and running is essential, but the Amber Alert system is not.
Obama had to make the cuts more pronounced because few Americans actually noticed sequestration. If America can actually run with fewer federal dollars being shelled out, then perhaps the Republicans are right about smaller government. Regrettably, Obama can afford to be this way. The press will not call him on his behavior, and his supporters are too doe-eyed to admit he is managing to be more of a child in this than even the GOP—and that takes a titanic effort.
Boehner is an incompetent fool, Reid is a weasel and the president of the United States is a reprobate. I am reminded of the old saying, “We get the government we deserve.” I ask myself, what did We the People ever do to deserve this ride on the ship of fools?
Both sides are so convinced they are going to “win” that they have forgotten that to make this republic work takes making trade-offs. I honestly do not believe that either party knows how to win a war of ideas. They try to win battles, even taking a Pyrrhic victory over losing a media cycle or election. They stand for no real ideal and cannot plan beyond tomorrow.
Should we be surprised? Can we not see this same failure in how our government conducts all its affairs, including foreign policy and wars? We have developed a culture of winning battles while losing wars. We change the definition of success, or simply refuse to define what victory is. We throw money and lives at every perceived problem and count it as a triumph before the fighting finishes. Or we simply vacate the field and boast victory to a tiny band of true believers.
I do not believe America is yet irredeemable, but it needs leaders who understand the importance of the long-term health of this country over shortsighted “wins.” It needs leaders willing to negotiate and compromise.
President Harry Truman once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” It is too bad that we do not have a single political leader who believes in this maxim.
Armstrong Williams is on 4-5 p.m. EST on S.C. WGCV, Sirius/XM Power 110, 6-7 p.m. and 4-5 a.m. EST. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.