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The Next Hostage Fight

By Matthew Yglesias  

"The Next Hostage Fight"

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Watching Barack Obama’s press conference all I could think about was this scene from Speed:

Harry Temple: All right, pop quiz. Airport, gunman with one hostage. He’s using her for cover; he’s almost to a plane. You’re a hundred feet away… Jack?

Jack: Shoot the hostage.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I found the logic the President espoused to defend the deal was more troubling than the deal itself. Ask yourself which is better policy: temporary extension of all Bush tax cuts + implementation of various stimulus measures or immediate expiration of all Bush tax cuts and implementation of no stimulus measures. I think the answer is pretty clear—the deal is better policy.

But ask yourself about a theory of change in which Republican intransigence is rewarded with lectures to liberals about the evils of intransigence.

I mean, what happens if this deal goes through and now the time comes when congress needs to raise the debt ceiling and Speaker Boehner decides he wants to hold some hostages. Sure he’ll deliver the votes, but only if Obama delivers draconian spending cuts.

I’m not sure what’ll happen. It’ll be a standoff. Someone will get criticized in the press. Someone will get nervous. Someone will need to back down. Does this deal make it more likely, per se, that it’s Obama who’ll back down? Not really, no. But the thought process he outlined at the press conference suggests that he will. That in response liberals will complain, and in response to that Obama will deliver the impassioned dressing-down that he doesn’t deliver to the right-wing hostage takers.

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