"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Blame Game

We start with Meghan McCain's rant, for no reason other than convenience.  Let her statements stand in for all the arguments that "both sides do it":

“This makes everyone collectively look bad,” McCain began. “If there’s one thing we can agree on, this is a bunch of bull. I’m over it and I think everyone else is over it. Our leaders, both sides: no more walking out, no more posturing for the cameras.”

“Why can’t they do what Pelosi has suggested, which is stop the shutdown and negotiate?” asked co-host Joy Behar. “Why can’t they do that? It would bring everybody back to work.” She added that the shutdown was not bipartisan, and that Trump was to blame, which set McCain off on a rant.

“You know what’s not productive? Saying that it’s all Trump’s fault,” she began shouting. “Because then you want to know what happens? Then I go, ‘all right, let me give you a list of what Nancy and Chuck haven’t done, what the Democrats are doing.'”

“I’m trying to find a place where we can all come together to get our government working because everyone is losing on this,” McCain continued to yell, as co-host Sunny Hostin tried to change the subject. “I don’t want posture politics. I don’t want to be like the crappy politicians on this show today. I don’t want to do that. I want us to come together.”

And then consider how we got here.  The roots of this nonsensical way of paying for government lie, if Slate is to be believed, with Jimmy Carter's Attorney General.  But the roots of this current impasse lie entirely with Donald Trump.  He sent Mike Pence to Congress to assure all concerned that the final appropriations bill as written would be signed if it passed both houses.  However, once it did, Trump changed his mind.  It doesn't matter why he changed it, he is responsible for his actions, and he changed his mind.

Further, having first demanded $5 billion for border wall construction, he now wants $5.7 billion.

"A rounding error," in the overall budget, some say.  True, and it always will be.  Trump is never going to demand $250 billion, or $500 billion; so no matter how much he raises the Democrats every time they "see" his raise, it will always be dismissible as a "rounding error," as not enough to quibble over in the face of 800,000 unemployed federal workers and who knows how many federal contract workers, and all the other problems of a government hobbled by lack of authorized funding.

But that isn't the issue; the reliability of Trump as an honest negotiator, is.  If he walked away from $5 billion, why not demand $6 billion when the Dems meet his demand of $5.7 billion?  Why not go up again, and again, and again?  As soon as the deal is struck, unstrike it.  Why not?  For the foreseeable future, this is pretty much the only leverage Trump is going to have; why give it up?  Why not milk it for as much as he can?  He did it once, and now there is talk of "both sides are to blame," so why not do it again?  Both-siderism will never be quelled, and Trump never loses:  it's truly, for him, a win-win.  TSA workers quit?  Coast guard employees sue?  FDA inspectors don't inspect?  Who cares?  Trump doesn't.  Offer him another deal, watch him walk away from that, demanding another deal.  He's done it once, why shouldn't he do it again?  Hit the reset button, everyone says "both sides are to blame," and the merry-go-round keeps spinning.

I learned one thing in negotiations as a lawyer:  you don't negotiate with someone acting in bad faith. There's no point to it.  Trump broke a deal that started this crisis; why shouldn't he break another deal to end this crisis?  He thinks he's winning.  Why should he agree to lose?

It's perfectly simple, in the end.  At what point do the Democrats demand Trump stick to the deal what was made?  The third time?  The fourth?  Why not now?  Sure, it's a rounding error; but the amount of money isn't the point.  The good faith of the other party is.  Trump has proven his word is worthless.  Shakespeare wrote one of his greatest tragedies around a man whose word was completely worthless.  Trump is not Iago, but neither is he ever going to "come together" with Pelosi and Schumer and strike a deal.  The only deal Trump can be held to is the one he signs; until pen hits paper, nothing he says can be relied on, no deal can be assured.

If we've learned nothing else by now, we've learned that.  Mitch McConnell is either hiding behind that fact, or hoping it will go away.  The NYT reported McConnell's approval in Kentucky is in the 30's, while Trump's is in the 50's.  Maybe McConnell is trying to associate himself with Trump for that reason.  Maybe McConnell understands he can't rely on Trump, and he can't muster the votes for a veto override.  The solution to this problem really rests on one side of the political aisle; because the man with the pen is a toddler with a shotgun.  And he's not going to give that shotgun up until someone takes it from him.

No wonder Russia is laughing.


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