What’s happening today in Washington, D.C. brings to mind an oft-quoted line from the 1967 movie “Cool Hand Luke,” starring Paul Newman, “What we have got is a failure to communicate.” That line still resonates today. Nowhere is a failure to communicate more glaring than the existing gridlock over the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling, ongoing between President Obama and Congress these days.
After many years of practicing law in California and settling countless cases, I can safely say that the essential ingredient for any successful settlement is communication. Each side must talk to the other. Many settlement judges used the time-honored strategem of putting both sides in a closed room with the instruction not to come out until they have resolved their issues. Both sides must give a little. As one judge put it, if both sides are unhappy with the end result, there has been a successful settlement approach.
But President Obama’s approach to resolving the impasse in Washington only reflects his total and complete lack of experience in the real world of negotiations. He says that he is willing to negotiate with Republicans but only after they agree to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling. I never once saw a settlement work where one party says in effect, “give me everything I want and then I’ll talk to you.” With apologies to Shakespeare, the fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars but in ourselves. The man in the White House was elected and then re-elected. Now we are paying for it.
A failure to communicate is a recipe for continuation of the deadlocked issues. In Washington, the end result is a malfunctioning government. It stems from a president who is acting like a partisan politician instead of a president. A real president knows how to lead. Real leadership means reaching out to both sides to resolve their issues. The White House’s stubborn failure to negotiate on the government shutdown is clearly not in the country’s best interests. It is nothing more than a diversionary tactic, a “thinly veiled” (to use the President’s own words) political ploy dreamed up by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to try to foist blame on Speaker John Boehner and the House controlled Republican party to influence the outcome of the coming 2014 midterm congressional elections.
Speaker Boehner wants to tie the resolution of the government shutdown to taking steps to curtail government spending as well as to talks on lifting the debt ceiling and modification of some aspects of Obamacare. These are laudable objectives, ones that deserve serious consideration from the White House and the Senate. The tax and spend mentality of the democratic party is nowhere more evident than now. Big government and more government spending is not the answer to the problems of the country. The wealth of this country has been driven in large part by private enterprise. With the economy sputtering, unemployment still at unacceptably high rates, and many businesses leaning toward only hiring part-time help because of the threat of incurring Obamacare financial penalties if full time employees are not covered, it’s time to seriously reform the country’s spending habits. Increasing the debt ceiling without accompanying restraints on spending is not the answer. Mr. Boehner is on the right track and deserves the country’s undivided support.
Shakespeare also wrote that some men are born into greatness, some have it thrust upon them, and some achieve it during their lifetimes. (“Twelfth Night”). President Obama doesn’t fit into any of these categories. As the first man of color to be elected president, he has earned the chance to achieve greatness. So far he has failed to take advantage of the opportunity. His legacy, as things now stand, will not be greatness but that of a president who has failed to communicate. It is a legacy of failure.