We’re right on the merits, but I don’t think we want to argue on the merits. Our argument is not that our argument is better than theirs; it’s that theirs is stupid.
--WH official, explaining to Dana Milbank the administration's refusal to entertain any Republican offers but "clean" ones.
It's an essential strategy, whose absurd alternative has played out all week in various cable-network interviews with GOP lawmakers.
Invariably (except at Fox), the host's initial question is, How can it be politically acceptable as a negotiating tactic that you'll blow up the economy unless your demands are met? The Republican response instantly shifts to the demand side--as a litany of grievances: the debt and deficits are too damn high; the American people abhor Obamacare; we need more energy independence; the ease of malpractice suits is appalling; und so weiter.
Back to host. Yes, well that, in part or in whole, may be true or untrue, but the question is, How can it be tactically acceptable to the White House that you'll blow up the economy unless your demands are met? Answer: the debt and deficits are too damn high; the American people abhor Obamacare ...
At this point or soon thereafter the host generally surrenders in a blast of frustration by engaging one of the Republican's many complaints. But Congressman, deficits are plunging! Then the inevitable, You call $700 billion a "plunge"? And then off they go to the Keystone pipeline or some proposed tax reform or some other subject, any other subject except that of the initial and indispensable question: Why would the White House negotiate with terrorists?
At that point in the interview the terrorist has won. Pipelines and taxes on medical devices have absolutely nothing to do with paying past bills and keeping the government open. The stupidity of the terrorist's linkage is grounded in its utter irrelevancy.
Of course that stupidity transforms to inspired brilliance once any of its particulars is ruled allowable. So for the White House, the only way to win is not to play.