The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Obama’s rope-a-dope political strategy

The rope-a-dope is a boxing fighting style commonly associated with Muhammad Ali in his 1974 Rumble in the Jungle match against George Foreman. In competitive situations other than boxing, rope-a-dope is used to describe strategies in which one party purposely puts itself in what appears to be a losing position, attempting thereby to become the eventual victor. (Source: Wikipedia) One possible narrative description of President Obama’s ongoing political strategy employs the rope-a-dope metaphor. It goes like this:

December, 2010: President Obama goes along with a deal with Republicans to extend unemployment benefits in exchange for extending the Bush tax cuts to December 2012, after the election. Both moves were bad for balancing the budget, but both were good for the economy. Obama didn’t give anything up from a Keynesian point of view, even if it looked like he took a hit. The general Keynesian rule is to not raise taxes during a recession.

In April, 2011, when faced with the threat of government shutdown over budget disagreements, President Obama agreed to a $38 billion budget cut in exchange for a $1,365 billion spending agreement. That represents only a 2.7% spending cut, even if the cuts all fell in the last half of the fiscal year. It’s hard to imagine a 2.7% cut as giving away the store, yet Obama was pummeled for being an appeaser and caving in to Republican demands, but it was the Republicans who blinked. The radical right fumed and vowed to take the fight to the upcoming debt limit increase.

In August, 2011, when faced with a government default over raising the debt ceiling, the professional Republican politicians compromised, even as the freshman Tea Party members of Congress raged. President Obama took a verbal thrashing, mostly from his friends and allies on the left. Obama was described as weak or incompetent, but a monumental disaster was averted.

This sets the stage for the next big Congressional brawl at the end of  September when the 2011 Federal budget expires. President Obama has clearly established himself in the public eye as reasonable and accommodating by all accounts. Is that a character flaw as the left wing argues, or is it merely part of Obama’s long term strategy to encourage division on the right?

My theory . . . and it’s just a theory . . . is that President Obama will take a hard stand against the inevitably unreasonable Republican demands to cut the 2012 Federal budget this September. He will force the right to take ownership of a government shutdown like that of 1995 – 1996 during the Clinton administration, and the political results will be the same. Déjà vu – government shutdown fifteen years later. Only then will Obama relent, somewhat,  and save the day.

If fate will be so kind as to provide a viable right wing third party Presidential candidate next year, like Ross Perot in 1996, then history will do a near perfect repeat. Like President Clinton, Obama will win election to a second term as President.

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Written by Tom Fox

08/02/2011 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Politics

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