Barack Obama: Smart Man, Stupid Negotiator

I can't help but find this completely hilarious:

Republicans have made defunding Democrats' health care law a top priority, but at a closed-to-the-press fundraiser Obama candidly described to donors how he defeated their attempts. Perhaps not realizing his mic was on, Obama's private remarks were caught by CBS correspondent Mark Knoller, who was able to listen to through a live audio feed.

"I said, 'You want to repeal health care? Go at it. We'll have that debate," Obama said, describing his negotiations with Speaker John Boehner. "You're not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget. You think we're stupid?'" [Emphasis mine]

It depends on what President Obama means by "stupid." Does John Boehner question the president's intelligence? Probably not. Is John Boehner baffled/pleasantly surprised by the president's unwillingness to negotiate like someone with something to lose? Absolutely. Obama is an absolutely terrible negotiator, and his reactions to GOP hostage-taking have been incredibly disappointing, to say the least. This is especially true on the impending debt-ceiling vote, where Obama has dashed the possibilities for a "clean" vote in favor of one that gives the GOP license to extract concessions from the administration. Jonathan Chait explains:

I don't really blame the Republicans for this, either. If Obama is going to begin by saying he'd like a straight vote on the debt ceiling but is willing to make policy concessions, what do you expect the Republicans to do? Keep in mind, the assumption that the Congressional minority can use the debt ceiling as a hostage to win substantive policy the president opposes is entirely novel. Obama has introduced this new development.

Obama isn't stupid, or insane, or dangerously credulous, but this is a stupid, insane, and dangerously credulous approach to negotiating. Whether the White House is blind to the radicalism of the GOP caucus or willfully ignorant, I don't know; either way, it doesn't inspire much confidence.

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