What we've got here is... failure to communicate

The Power of Bad Ideas - What we've got here is far worse than a failure to communicate


It was late Wednesday afternoon, July 13, in the Cabinet Room in the White House. Budget negotiations between Democrats and Republicans had been going on for months. The president, the vice president and congressional leaders on both sides were meeting again. Late in the meeting, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor asked the president a question. As Mr. Cantor told it this week, he was thinking about how the White House and the Republicans were still far apart on the size of budget cuts. He felt the president and his party were hung up on an insistence on raising taxes. Mr. Cantor asked Mr. Obama if he would drop his stand that the debt ceiling should be raised without dollar-for-dollar cuts. At that point, said Mr. Cantor, the president "turned to me and said, 'Eric, don't call my bluff.' He said, 'I'm going to take this to the American people.'" Then he got up and left.

The president was confident he could go over the heads of the opposition and win the day with his powers of persuasion. On July 25 he made his move, with a prime-time national address.

Boy, did it not work.

It was a speech with a calm surface but a rough undertow. "The wealthiest Americans" and "biggest corporations" should "give up some of their breaks." The "burden" must be "fairly shared." The problem is Republicans, who are "insisting" on an approach that "doesn't ask the wealthiest Americans or the biggest corporations to contribute anything at all." These Republicans ask nothing of "those at the top of the income scale." Their stand would "threaten working families" and enrich the "corporate jet owner," the "oil companies" and "hedge fund managers." But don't worry, "the 98% of Americans who make under $250,000 would see no tax increases at all." "Millionaires and billionaires" must "share in the sacrifice." Otherwise the government may not be able to send out Social Security checks.

It was, obviously, an attempt at class warfare. But class warfare is inherently manipulative, and people often sense manipulation and lean away from it. Americans at this point—they've been through the 20th century—don't like attempts to divide them. It turns things sour.

Comment: Cool Hand Luke

1 comment:

  1. With Clinton: His opposition generally thought has was competent. Immoral but competent.

    With Carter: His opposition considered him a good moral man.

    With Obama: His opposition finds him incompetent, and a liar.


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