Watchdog Blog

Gilbert Cranberg: Boehner: Oh, What a Smart Dealer Am I

Posted at 2:27 pm, August 5th, 2011
Gilbert Cranberg Mug

The prize for impolitic remark of the year goes to House Speaker John Boehner, who told a television interviewer Aug. 1 that, in the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling, “When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 per cent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.”

Negotiated agreements don’t lend themselves to being quantified. But even with an allowance for exaggeration, it’s clear that Democratic negotiators on the debt ceiling didn’t fare well. Negotiations are supposed to be a process of give-and-take. By Boehner’s account, it was almost all give by the Democrats and take by Boehner and his band of Republicans. That’s also the way it looked to bystanders.

Plenty of negotiating remains over spending cuts, which is why Boehner’s 98-per-cent comment was imprudent. The boast, if that’s what it was, makes Democrats and the White House look like pushovers. They may well have been, but some things are best left unsaid, especially when you want negotiating partners to be conciliatory.

Boehner’s remark about being “plenty happy” calls to mind the passage in the Bible that warns, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls nor gladden your hearts when he stumbles.” Democrats stumbled in their one-sided agreement on the debt ceiling. By putting a number on it, Boehner did Democrats a perverse service by reminding them of how badly they faltered. Call it gloating or rubbing salt in the wound. Also call it not smart, under the circumstances.

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