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“Emergency” Negotiations are the Only Kind Politicians Know

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US President Barack Obama speaks with US Speaker of the House John Boehner during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 23, 2011. Obama summoned top lawmakers for crisis talks Saturday on averting an August debt default that could send shockwaves through the fragile global economy. With an August 2 deadline fast approaching, Obama warned that polarized lawmakers must have a plan for raising the $14.3 trillion US debt ceiling by the time world markets pass judgment Monday on the stalemate. AFP Photo/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks with US Speaker of the House John Boehner during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 23, 2011. Obama summoned top lawmakers for crisis talks Saturday on averting an August debt default that could send shockwaves through the fragile global economy. With an August 2 deadline fast approaching, Obama warned that polarized lawmakers must have a plan for raising the $14.3 trillion US debt ceiling by the time world markets pass judgment Monday on the stalemate. AFP Photo/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

As the August 2nd deadline for the debt ceiling crisis approaches, all that is missing from the news cycle is a cute nickname rhyming with Armageddon and a countdown clock to said Armageddon.

If I seem a bit cynical, it’s because I am experiencing an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. Is it just me, or does it seem that every set of negotiations between the White House and Congress over a major issue always comes down to some fabricated deadline? And don’t they usually use said deadline to drum up more drama and press, but essentially present a plan that was concocted weeks ago?

It’s that sense of déjà vu that is creating my cynicism and my belief that this whole idea of a debt ceiling crisis is simply politics as usual and not something out of the ordinary.

Certainly the stakes seem higher in this particular situation, but politicians are good at making the stakes of every emergency negotiations sound more important than the last issue that was negotiated.

What I am wondering is if pushing finding a solution to the very last minute, and calling the talks “emergency” negotiations, will have the desired effect with voters. My gut feeling is that it will, at least with certain kinds of voters.

Party base voters are the intended audience for this drama, since most middle of the road voters simply want a deal done, and don’t really have any issues that are subject to compromise.

Party base voters, however, have a long list of pet issues at risk in these debt ceiling discussions. Tea Party activists want to be sure that no new taxes come out of the talks, and Progressives are concerned that some historic entitlement programs will be cut.

The reality is that both party bases are likely to see something they don’t like in the final version of the deal.

Here’s where the drama, and the effect of creating the drama, come into play.

If the GOP negotiators capitulated on the new taxes idea two weeks ago, they would look like they caved to the White House and sold out the Tea Party.

If the White House capitulated on entitlement program cuts without securing new revenue sources two weeks ago, President Obama would look like a weakened leader.

But if both the GOP and the White House go ahead and capitulate on both of those issues at midnight on August 1st, they look like reasonable heroes that made sure our economy didn’t experience a devastating default.

If either side makes a reasonable compromise too “early” then they didn’t fight hard enough, even if they make the same exact deal at the 11th hour.

I know it sounds weird, but this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this happen, and sadly, it won’t be the last.

Like I’ve said before, (and proven far more often than I like to admit), I could be wrong. But if analyzing politics for the last few years has taught me anything, it’s that when and how something is said is often more important than what is actually being said.

That’s the axiom I’ll be considering as we wait for “Defaultaggedon” to arrive.
About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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