The Thinker: Rich Galen


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The Pickens Lines

Rich Galen

Wednesday October 17, 2013


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  • Last night the House and Senate passed the bill to restart full government services and raise the debt limit.

  • It was not a bright spot in American history, but it was way better than what we've been going through for the past few weeks.

  • I have told you before I do work for, and with, the energy guru, T. Boone Pickens. Some time ago Boone was explaining to me his theory about how to get to a deal. In sum he said this (if you watched me on Anderson Cooper's CNN program last night you can skip over this because I told this story then):
    When you decide to enter into a negotiation you have to decide how far you're willing to go to get the deal. But, you also have to estimate - or guess - how far the other guy is going to be willing to go to get the deal.

  • Here's the important part about those lines. Let's call them the Pickens Lines.
    Those lines have to overlap, because the space between the two overlapping lines is where the deal gets made.

    If those lines do not overlap, roll up the blueprints and go home. You will never get to a deal.

    You don't have to tell the other guy where your line is, but you have to be honest with yourself about where you think his line is going to be.

  • Republicans in Congress should have realized that the lines - when it came to ObamaCare - were never going to overlap.
    It was going to be impossible to make a deal demanding the defunding of Obamacare.

    It was going to be impossible to make a deal demanding the delay of ObamaCare.

    It was going to be slightly less impossible to make a deal demanding the delay of the individual mandate.

    It was going to be still less impossible to repeal the tax on medical devices.

  • But, at no time did the Pickens Lines overlap. It was never going from impossible to possible.

  • And the Republicans lost.

  • At the beginning of the shut-down talk, I was for it. I thought it was a good tactic to demonstrate that House Republicans were serious about this. I thought a couple of days of shut-down, from Tuesday October 1 until maybe Thursday October 3 would be a good lesson.

  • That would have allowed the GOP to say, "See? We can do this. Come and talk to us and let's see where we can agree."

  • Instead, the Republicans used up every single arrow in their collective quiver and got just about zero for the exercise.

  • Do I think this bodes ill for House Republicans in 2014 - the second Obama mid-term election?

  • No.

  • Let's go back over the past few months in terms of failures that can be laid at the feet of the Obama Administration:
    -- Edward Snowden stole the entire NSA playbook and ended up, for all we know drinking vodka with maraschino cherries from a safe haven in Russia.

    -- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in a military coup.

    -- President Obama completely booted the Syria issue, being outmaneuvered by Vladimir Putin (again) when Bashir al-Assad killed more than a thousand of his own people using chemical weapons.

    -- The opening of ObamaCare has been a complete bust.

  • Yet, since all of those ills have befallen the President his approval rating, according to Gallup, has fallen from 48% to 43%. Not good, but not exactly a runaway elevator, either.

  • The point is, there will be a lot of crises, a lot of events requiring "Special Reports" on the cable news channels; a lot of tragedies and comedies in the human condition between now and November 2014.

  • If the GOP wants to avoid more embarrassing defeats, it needs to be honest about how far the President will go - where the Pickens Lines are.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to's coverage of the voting last night; and to the Washington Post's coverage of who won (or lost).

    Also a Mullfoto of me waiting for my moment in the spotlight on CNN last night.

    -- END --

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