This Week’s Crisis: Obama Wins, Nation Loses

By | October 19, 2013

Brinkmanship only works in politics if the crises the parties are facing, and their consequences, are unsatisfactory to both parties. If the consequences of a manufactured crisis are only totally unacceptable to one party, or person, in a conflict resolution scenario, you know who’s going to win the showdown at the very outset. That’s precisely what we saw this past week with the high drama in Washington.

Brinksmanship is generically defined as “the practice of pushing dangerous events to the verge of, or to the brink of, disaster in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome.” The government slim-down of the past couple weeks, and the approach this week of the hyped “default” on our debt presented a case study in brinkmanship by parties which, if we studied their motives and priorities, we could have, and did, presciently predict the outcome.

{4a4b2129-c6cd-4ba3-84b5-1a2bac3ac409}.gifBut to understand why the House “blinked” and the president didn’t, we need to understand the motivations for both positions. The president and his team like crises, because they are opportunities for them. The president’s former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel infamously declared, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, “Never waste a good crisis.”

This perspective reflects the most common transliteration of the Chinese character for crisis, where the two components represent “danger” and “opportunity.” The administration made it clear five years ago that crises represented opportunity to them, as Emanuel completed his thought, “And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Coupled with the “crisis is opportunity” theorem, the presidential hubris and narcissism guarantees that he will get his way, regardless of the consequences. Dr. Sam Vaknin, an Israeli psychologist and globally recognized expert on narcissism has stated of Obama, “should he be subjected to psychological testing, for instance, to the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, which is a classical tool for diagnosing narcissism, or to the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), I have no doubt in my mind that he will be diagnosed as a classical, malignant, psychopathic narcissist.”

One of those tests includes what he calls “pronoun density,” which refers to how many times one says “me,” “my,” “I,” and “myself,” in a single sentence unnecessarily, especially in places where you could have substituted other, more appropriate pronouns. Vaknin, describing a piece that he wrote in July 2008, said, “Obama’s pronoun density is three times the average pronoun density of a psychopathic narcissist. I mean, that’s how bad it was. That is a major clinical sign.” Predictably, one of the characteristics of narcissists is that, filled with their own sense of inflated self-importance and self-admiration, they don’t capitulate. They’re going to get their way, regardless of the cost.

On the other side of the negotiations (which really never occurred since Obama ostentatiously refused to do so), was the House of Representatives, comprised of a politically and ideologically diverse group of 435 individuals, 232 of which are Republicans, most “in name only.” However, there is a group of 46 within the House that are driven by a set of principles, rather than a personality or a plenary rule for crisis management. Their convictions, which got them elected from their respective districts, are reduction of the national debt and federal budget deficit by reducing government spending and taxes.

Ironically, the mainstream media, and left-leaning politicians, refer often to the caucus of 46 within the House as extremists or radicals. I often wonder if those applying such appellations think of themselves, or their frugal spouses, as radicals or extremists, if they’re penurious in their own lives. Or is economic illiteracy so rampant among the political elite and the mainstream media that unconstrained spending, without regard for paying for accumulated debt, is somehow unreasonable; hence, “radical” or “extreme?”

Other than their conviction toward prudent and measured fiscal matters, their penultimate shared value is patriotism. If there was a Hippocratic Oath equivalent for politicians, they would be the first to take it, vowing to “do no harm.” The republic, after all, is perpetuated more logically by disciplined fiscal policy than by profligate, unrestrained and irresponsible spending. The latter hastens the day of impending financial collapse of the dollar and the entire economy, as the nation races toward an implosion under the weight of a national debt that today exceeds $17 trillion, or 110% of the national GDP, which is now higher than financially troubled Spain’s debt to GDP ratio.

Although default was discretionary to the president and the secretary of the treasury, the House acquiesced to the president’s demands rather than allow for that possibility. And prudently so, for through the sequestration spending cuts, and the recent government “shutdown,” the president has applied spending restrictions as punitively and painfully as possible. It’s disconcerting when the leader of the free world has a temper tantrum over not getting his way, and makes everyone suffer, as he applies the restrictions in a way to make them “as painful as possible.”

In light of these factors, the winners and losers of this past week’s brinkmanship were highly predictable. The winner is the president, and the loser is the nation.

AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Category: Politics

About Richard Larsen

AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at [email protected]

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5 thoughts on “This Week’s Crisis: Obama Wins, Nation Loses

  1. Jan Brown

    Jon, appreciate your input & especially enjoyed the ‘bipolar drunk woman’ reference as it sure can be applied to most of these officials we elected.

    It’s only right that I offer the fact that I worked on Cruz’s campaign & know both him and wife. Also, while there is no Tea Party group locally, I have been affiliated with the National Tea Party Patriots.

    Cruz is new in the Senate, but has been in DC with the Bush Administration. As the son of a minister, he is quite conservative in his views..most importantly, he finds speaking up & defending what he believes is right….& quite effective at it. Prior to his backing from the Tea Party, he was vetted & investigated like the other candidates & apparently came closest to the Conservative we need in Washington….His closest opponent was David Dewhurst, the current Lt Governor who had name recognition & wealth…some came from questionable sources.

    The Tea Party organizations are from moderately conservatives to extremes such as Ron Paul. It appears that most are educated in their Constitution.
    The Libertarian influence is (to me) is perhaps the heavily of them. There are even some ‘former democrats’ that are becoming most vocal & make up the majority of the moderately conservative. The balance is growing even more representative of the ‘average American…..Running for office takes ALOT of money & backing…..and for this reason candidates gravitate to it……..Not unlike the Union power on the left.

    Actually among voters, Ted’s ratings are even to up. He was sent to DC to rattle the cages of the one settled in comfy personal zones that feel their power allows them to pursue self service as opposed as service to the people.

    Thanks again for this exchange.

  2. Jan Brown

    MMPI …..hmmm and all of this time I thought it was just an inflated ego with strong Machiavellian influences…I agree that Obama came out ahead, but not so sure the Nation was a total loser. There is of course, the sequester cuts, but perhaps more important is that emotionally many were outraged & paying attention that previously hadn’t or undecided. I don’t thin anyone thought that Obamacare would be defunded, but the continual piecemeal backing away & willingness to accept less each time did show GOP was ‘trying’ to meet half way. Was it the best way? Probably not. still I think it was less harmful to Republicans than indicated and this is an issue that all parties share sentiments. Just maybe B.O. was only winner….after all..I understand that Mitch got Kentucky a new multi-million dollar bridge

    1. Jon

      Most estimates show the shutdown cost taxpayers between $12-24 billion dollars and it was flushed down the toilet for no good reason. Republicans and the Tea Party have lost ALL credibility when they complain about wasteful government spending.

      1. Jan Brown

        Jon, like you, I have access to the figures reflecting the economical impact to the Nation. However, that was not the point of my comment & there was no need to include it. As an American I share the frustration & anger as well as the embarrassment this unnecessary action as caused. I simply share a rare positive aspect in hope it will offer some solace to others as we strive for better times. I regret you are unable to grasp it.

        This Country has 2 & only two political recognized parties…The “Tea Party” is NOT one of them. It is a large diverse group of ‘We the People” that uses it’s influence to elect the individuals that shares the values of our foundation. The continued need to ‘label’ only serves to increase division within the Republican Party when it’s most needed.

        Jon, one question: Who, in your mind, does have credibility?

        1. Jon

          Hi Jan, thanks for your comment.

          I admit, I have a hard time finding a positive to the shutdown, and the things that became symbols on the right–such as the closing of memorials–seemed to highlight the fact that Republican (I guess I’ll call them that) lawmakers don’t seem to realize they are playing around with live ammunition, and that actions (or inactions) have consequences. The sequester cuts you had mentioned had been agreed to months before the shutdown. There was no need for this.

          As to your comment about the Tea Party being a large group…okay, I’ll buy that. However, you have to admit that the majority of Congressmen who were driving the lunacy self-identified as Tea Party affiliated, and have jobs because they primaried an establishment Republican. Surely I’m not out of line by suggesting that Ted Cruz is a standard bearer of the Tea Party? He has lost his credibility. Congressmen like Marlin Stutzman who opened their mouths and revealed their ineptitude have also dinged the credibility of the Tea Party as well.

          I’m not a starry-eyed naive fool, but in this situation, I think the Democrats retained their credibility. They agreed to the sequester cuts for the CR, and were betrayed by Republicans who decided they wanted to make the United States look like a bipolar drunk woman at a bar who needs to have a friend bring her home. The Democrats stood firm and said they weren’t having it. At the very least, they did not lose credibility here. In the end, the drunk bipolar friend vomited all over the interior of her friend’s very nice car, giving us a cleaning bill of $24 billion dollars.

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