Question time

In case you haven't seen the exchange yesterday between President Obama and the entire House Republican Caucus, do yourself a favor, and watch the whole thing (or read it).  An excerpt:

Now, you may not agree with Bob Dole and Howard Baker and Tom — and certainly you don't agree with Tom Daschle on much . . .

(LAUGHTER)

. . . but that's not a radical bunch. But if you were to listen to the debate, and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you'd think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot.

(LAUGHTER)

No, I mean, that's how you guys — that's how you guys presented it.

(APPLAUSE)

And so I'm thinking to myself, "Well, how is it that a plan that is pretty centrist . . . "

(LAUGHTER)

No, look, I mean, I'm just saying — I know you guys disagree, but if you look at the facts of this bill, most independent observers would say this is actually what many Republicans — it — it's similar to what many Republicans proposed to Bill Clinton when he was doing his debate on health care.

So all I'm saying is we've got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality.

I'm not suggesting that we're going to agree on everything, whether it's on health care or energy or what have you, but if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don't have a lot of room to negotiate with me.

I mean, the fact of the matter is that many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable in your own base, in your own party. You've given yourselves very little room to work in a bipartisan fashion because what you've been telling your constituents is, "This guy's doing all kinds of crazy stuff that's going to destroy America."

And I — I would just say that we have to think about tone.

It's not just on your side, by the way. It's — it's on our side as well. This is part of what's happened in our politics, where we demonize the other side so much that when it comes to actually getting things done, it becomes tough to do.

Mrs. NonSequitur, a lawyer, observed that at moments it felt like lawyer Obama was attempting to get an unreasonable client to see that a settlement of their case cannot in principle mean they get one-hundred percent.

16 thoughts on “Question time”

  1. "For example, we said from the start that it was going to be important for us to be consistent in saying to people if you can have your — if you want to keep the health insurance you got, you can keep it, that you're not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decision making. And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge."
     
    Some Bolshevik plot indeed.

  2. John, I think your "unreasonable client" analogy is half right.Why is the majority disapproving of the President's handle of health-care(54.5% vs 38.1%)? Is it all because of this unreasonable client? After all, Republicans were not even a client until Brown won the senate seat.

  3. Included in those disapproving are those that wanted a more robust health care plan, those that think they should have passed what they had, etc.

    On the client analogy–the Republicans are in the minority in both houses.  Their approach has been to say no to everything–even after significant concessions had been made.  That isn't negotiating.

  4. Oh please. Obama made promises, broke those promises, didn’t lead in planning out what was in the bill, then blamed the Republicans when it didn’t pass. The Republicans have been an obstruction? With a super majority in the senate? He’s just blaming them because he couldn’t get anything done and he needs a scape goat. What a load of crap.

  5. Well, gee, to begin, the Rs forced the cloture issue, conservative dems included them all over the place in initial negotiations, leading Rs declared their willingness to make Obama lose on this one, "death panels," "government takeover," etc.  Not grown ups.

  6. Oh so now the problem is the “conservative Dems” and what does any of this have to do with the new Republicans that were just elected to the house? The simple fact that you NEVER seem to think anything is Obama’s fault or hold the political left accountable should be an indicator to you that maybe you’re blinding yourself to reality.

  7. I'm sorry to disappoint you Andrew by not blaming Obama for more things.  I also appreciate your concern with my grip on reality. 

    But none of that was really the point of this post anyway.  I'm sorry that you haven't gotten that.

  8. Wow … this comment section got heated quickly šŸ™‚
    I think Obama is doing the right thing now and should be commended for it. John, you seem to think that this is useless since the client is unreasonable. Andrew, you seem to think that it's too late and it's just an image/blame game.
    I found this note (http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/obama-house-republicans-debate-their-divisions/?scp=1&sq=Rebulican%20Caucus&st=cse) interesting :"The encounter at a Baltimore hotel was unlike any of Mr. Obama’s presidency or very many other presidencies, for that matter. While he met with the Republican caucus once before and occasionally invites Republican leaders to the White House, they have never opened their dialogue to the public in a sustained way so that it could be broadcast live on national television. His predecessors likewise generally did not engage the opposition in a public back and forth."
    Why did Obama feel the need to engage the opposition in public? Was it a) because he tried to negotiate in private, and that didn't work; so he's hoping that the public will see what he had to deal with, or b) because he wants to blame the partisan atmosphere in Washington DC on Republicans or c) a little bit of both?

  9. "The Republicans have been an obstruction? With a super majority in the senate?" >> I sense an undeclared assumption that a party cannot obstruct when it is the minority facing a super-majority.  The conclusion that "He's just blaming them…needs a scapegoat" is conjecture, not logic; or maybe there's logic, but it is not explicit in this argument.
     
    "The Republicans are in the minority in both houses.  Their approach has been to say no to everything" >> Here the writer seems to agree with the undeclared assumption above regarding one premise (the super-majority), but suggest the opposite with the comparative (some reference to potency).  The conclusion of saying "no to everything" might be a generalization equivalent to arguing with a loaded term.
     
    "…now the problem is the 'conservative Dems'" does not follow at all from "…conservative dems included them…in discussions".  Here it appears obvious that the reasonableness of the discussants has vacated the site.
     
    Gentlemen please! The site's declaration is "A Logical Analysis of Political Media," beneath which comments relating to logic might be subsumed as an extension of both logical and analysis. I love this site, but the heated comments here might have been those found under the CBS News articles and written by people not likely to appreciate the premise of this site.
     
    I take to heart what is written on the "Our Bias" page, especially: "It entails … only the failure of that particular argument." 
     
    I hope I have not offended anyone now, but rather encouraged us to remain reasonable, and maintain "logical analysis" as something above the fray.  Thank you BN for the course-correction.

  10. Thanks Sigo–

    My point was that Republicans were invited into the process, by Obama, and by conservative dems.  Rather than participate in that process, they voted en bloc no (save one person in the house).  In addition to negotiating in bad faith, they engaged in some of the worst and most destructive kind of rhetoric–the kind Obama correctly pointed out–to their face.  He also pointed out, correctly again, that their extreme negotiating position (Democratic plan equals death to grandma) preculded them from a constructive dialogue with the Democrats.  I think Obama's advice in that regard is right on the mark (thus the lawyer-client analogy).

    Back, however, to Sigo's point.  Indeed, I've nowhere argued that I am endorsing any particular Obama proposal, as Andrew seems to think.  That's not, as Sigo correctly points out, what interests me here.  And indeed it ought to be stressed, the general putziness of the Republicans, their immaturity and dishonesty, does not entail anything about the Dems. 

  11. Logic is based on premises.  BN has clearly shown how John Casey and I disagree about the premises here.  i appreciate it when this site shows logical flaws in arguments, but this post presupposed the motivations of political actions in order to reach a forgone conclusion.  There are flaws in logic and then there are flaws in premises.  The surest way to hide one's logical flaws is to place them in the premises of the argument, and then make those premises assumed.  If I must be crass in order to expose when such things occur, I shall be and leave it to the level headed like BN to pronounce the underlying logic and assumptions that the initial post intended to presume.

  12. Thanks Andrew for your lecture on the nature of logic.  But I think you just fundamentally don't get it.  But I'll be nice and repeat it again.  The apparent immaturity of the Republican negotiating position, which Obama pointed out to their face in a historic encounter, was the point of the original post.  Their immaturity does not entail Obama's proposals are correct or that Obama is teh Awesome.  It does entaill, however trivially, that Obama was correct in pointing it out. 

  13. I did get that.  And while I am inclined to agree when it comes to the Republican Senate, I feel that is an unfair assertion against the House Republicans.  And I thought that to cast a wide net, lumping the two together is to be guilty of the same partisanship laden character assassination that Obama's complaints centered around.

  14. Though I would like to apologize, the wording of my original comment here reflects an emotionally driven attack.  I did not merely see an implied premise that I disagreed with, I assumed that it had been made intentionally in order to misrepresent the situation.  Even an honest disagreement can't find peaceful resolution when someone sets the tone at that level, and the fault there was mine.

  15. Nice of you to apologize, but I don't think it was necessary.

    In other matters, "You Lie!" the house Republicans have been has guilty of the ludicrous arguments against the various health care plans as much as the Senate Republicans.

    I don't think you lie, of course, but Joe Wilson–and John Boehner, minority leader, are house Republicans.  http://thinkprogress.org/2009/09/20/boehner-socialist.

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