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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, NOV. 21, 2014
SQUAWKING AND TALKING
BY BOB FRANKEN
Now that Barack Obama, with his immigration executive order, has taken off the gloves and, in effect, raised that time-honored gesture of defiance to Republican “members of Congress who question my authority,” they are angrily throwing down their own gauntlets, basically saying that he and (to quote John Boehner) his “lawless” presidency are toast, with no chance they’ll deal with him.
Don’t you believe it. Obviously the uproar is in high volume, and the neck twaddle is flapping in outrage. We certainly can expect the GOP House and Senate to do their very best to make Pennsylvania Avenue a war zone between the White House and Capitol Hill. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be willing to bargain at the same time. Even though immigration has now been slammed onto the table, the people on both sides have plenty of other cards in their hand. That’s the case even when it’s easy to believe that none of these guys is playing with a full deck.
Notwithstanding their shortcomings, our political leaders have lots of items they will negotiate. For instance, you might think that the Keystone pipeline is a pipe dream for the oil industry and other investors who want to take the petroleum glop they’ve pulled out of the tar sands in Canada and transport it to ships waiting in the Gulf of Mexico, or worse, from the environmentalist perspective, that this is a dirty, crude way to extract dirty crude and a danger if there’s a massive spill.
Or you might be surprised to know that Republicans and organized labor are united on this one, arguing that it’s a jobs-producer that helps advance the goal of energy independence. Whatever, ultimately, POTUS, through the State Department, must approve the massive project, particularly now that the Senate wasn’t able to pass legislation that would have forced him to, short of a veto.
Certainly, the green activists are a key Obama constituency, and they’ve been banking on their guy to remember that when he makes his decision, something he’s avoided doing, by the way. But let us not forget that Mr. Obama is done running for office. To put it bluntly, he doesn’t need anybody anymore. So there is no friends-of-the-earthly reason he can’t decide to throw his supporters from the anti-pollution movement under the bus, or in this case under the pipeline, if the right concessions come along from his enemies to the right.
If they give in on his infrastructure demands, maybe combined with a tax package, then helloooo Keystone pipeline. Of course, that’s assuming the Republicans aren’t so consumed with fury over his immigration move that they go into their fight-or-spite mode and make fools of themselves by shutting down the government, or deciding to push impeachment.
All they accomplish is destroying their credibility still again and, while they’re at it, inflicting considerable damage to the country. On the former point, since the latter doesn’t seem to matter anymore, they will probably succeed in electing Hillary Clinton president.
Perhaps that’s why Mitch McConnell keeps on insisting that there will not be a shutdown. But let’s not forget that McConnell also pledged that Barack Obama would be a one-termer, so take what he says with a grain of salt.
That’s also true for all the trash talk we’re hearing now. If sanity prevails, and that’s a big “if,” then paradoxically all this fury could end up producing some sound government as the bitter adversaries who run it remember that governing is what they’re supposed to be doing.
In a democracy, that means compromise -- give and take, not take and take. Those who are speaking loudly are actually carrying a small stick. They want to flog the other side into submission, but they end up hurting themselves. And, of course, all of us.
© 2014 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.