Peggy Noonan spoke with Jim Baker:
Presidents, he notes, always negotiate in order to get an increase in the debt limit—its their job. “It’s a failure of leadership to say, ‘I’m just gonna sit here while the government remains closed,’ or, with respect to the debt limit, ‘I’ll sit here and not negotiate and the catastrophic consequences I warned you of will just have to happen.’ . . . He has the burden of moving forward. He’s the leader of the country. He has to get the debt limit raised to avoid default.”
Yet the GOP too bears responsibility for the impasse. “I don’t think it was a very wise strategy for we Republicans to say we would not fund the government unless we defunded ObamaCare. I don’t think that’s a smart political strategy, and I think we’ll pay a price for it. . . . If you’re gonna make your stand, make your stand on something you can accomplish.” When he worked for Reagan, he’d come back from a negotiation saying, “I think we can get this,” and it was never all the president wanted. “Reagan would say, ‘I’d rather get 80% of what I want than go over the cliff with my flag flying.'”
Baker isn’t the guy you go to for statements of high principle. He’s not going to stir anybody to do great or noble things. But he does know how to get things done around a conference table.
So I’ll say this again: The Progressives have wanted some form, any form, of centralized health care distribution for over a century. Having finally gotten it, they will not let it go until they are voted out of office.
There’s no repeal bill they’ll sign, there’s no defunding they’ll agree to.
Watching the GOP slam its head against this wall, probably diminishing their chances of winning back the Senate and the White House, is dispiriting. Wiggleroom may come away bloodied, but he and his party in the Senate enjoy the advantages of incumbency. The GOP needs not merely to hang on as the Democrats do, but to win. And gaining a positive result requires a different approach than the neutral or negative result Wiggleroom and the Democrats need.
Maybe I’m failing to see the positive, and Harry Reid has stumbled a time or two this week. There’s also some rumbling that not all the Democrats on the Hill are happy with Wiggleroom’s refusal to negotiate.
But we need some wins, because draws go to the President. Here’s why I’m still pretty sure both sides are going to get badly hurt:
Ronald Reagan faced a fiercely Democratic house throughout both terms of his presidency. “Those days were bitter, but we got into a room and we thrashed it out. The ‘Gang of Five,’ the ‘Gang of 17’—we worked it out, each side gave a little, and we got the government working. Reagan—as you know, he had the reputation of being a conservative ideologue. But he wasn’t, he was pragmatic.” He worked with the other side and “won them over.” How? “Horse trading, compromise and negotiation made the government work.” Bill Clinton too “was willing to negotiate when he had a body controlled by the opposite party.”
Wiggleroom has never shown the kind of skills Reagan and Clinton possessed, nor does he seem to give a damn about the general welfare of the country. At this point, for him governing is nothing more than a game called Hurt the Republicans — a game the Republicans seem a little too fond of playing.