Wednesday, March 16, 2011

We Won!!!

Yesterday I again warned that the temporary extension vote was volatile and could easily slip crumble...and once again, it didn't happen. Still, if you're interested in what I have to say about it today, I have a post up over at Greg Sargent's blog. Short version: I think a shutdown is very likely, and I think the only play for Speaker John Boehner that has any hope of succeeding is to convince movement conservatives to take what they've done so far and declare victory.

Which gets me thinking...I wouldn't be surprised if this is an age-cohort effect, but I tend to see opportunities to declare victory and move on (as opposed to either admitting defeat or fighting on) all the time, and generally believe that it's a vastly underutilized governing technique. Perhaps not as useful as the classic "let others take the credit" move, but still quite helpful in a wide array of situations. Most recently, it was nicely deployed by George W. Bush in Iraq in 2007-2008, even as he was pursuing a policy that objective observers might have described the way Sir Robin's minstrels described that gallant knight's actions in the face of danger.

I'm not aware of any serious cataloging of governing techniques for politicians such as those, by the way. If there is one that I should know about, please pass it on! The two best contemporary-ish sources I'm aware of (that is, not Machiavelli) are Robert Caro's classic study of Robert Moses and, well, Yes, Minister.


  1. Ronald Reagan was a master of declaring victory and moving on. Now just look at how he's viewed (vs what he actually did). Why, he never failed or compromised on anything!

  2. I think you'll be wrong again, a third time. Though, I certainly understand why you think this time the gun will go off, so to speak. But I think a deal will be made, because if a shutdown occurs the disgust with Congress will be overwhelming and both parties will suffer from it. The shutdown if it occurs will be over, what? 5 months left of the 2011 budget, with much greater issues still waiting in the wings. I repeat, the disgust will be overwhelming. And both parties will share in it. And I think the leadership of both parties know that. What might happen though is a repeat of the kind of vote that got this second CR passed, and the further estrangement of the hard Right from the Republican Party--but with enough Republicans expressing impatience with the extremists to make it seem, well, something that was inevitably going to happen anyway.

  3. Declaring victory must be done with discretion; avoiding Mission Accomplished banners that need to be walked back.

    Because victories do need to be walked back.

  4. zic,

    Good point. On the other hand...had W. declared Mission Accomplished and then walked away, Iraq would have been a hellish mess (worse than it actually was? Who knows?), but it would rapidly have disappeared from American view. So the problem wasn't so much the "declare victory" part as it was that it wasn't accompanied by moving on.

  5. Jonathan, In Iraq, I think the problem was with the mission; the mission was ill conceived and military planning not followed.

    Apply the same to ACA; the rhetoric political rhetoric I hear from Dems isn't a 'mission accomplished' banner, it's 'a start that needs improving,' and 'the best we could get considering the obstruction.' Given the polling on the components, I think it's a good stance, long term, though they paid for it in the short. If and when Republicans start repealing bits and pieces or the whole instead of perfecting it, they're going to have to explain things they don't want to explain. I think this is why they turned to the courts, hoping Justice would resolve the mandate issue for them so that they didn't have to actually repeal the mandate, thus making the whole kit and caboodle unworkable without a public option.

    When you look at the Bush tax-break extensions, there's an undeniable irony of Mission Accomplished Banner overreach revealed by the deficit hawkishness now in play. Had Republicans claimed 'mission accomplished' and walked away with their tax cuts, and then been reasonable on working to put a budget together, I think they'd have been able to get away with their victory dance.

    Now I'm admittedly liberal, and probably more politically aware then the average Joe, I ready your blog. But you've got to drink a strong dose of fantasy not to have that irony start creeping into your subconscious thoughts. The victory dance on tax cuts and the dirge on deficit are a little too dissonant; Mission Accomplished Banners through and through.


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