Bargaining

A recently translated Qumran fragment contains an element of the story of Moses on Mt. Sinai that somehow failed to make it through the redaction process.

And it came to pass after forty days, that Moses descended from the mountain, and spake unto the Children of Israel, saying, “Verily, I bring unto you good news, and I bring also bad news.”

And the Children of Israel spoke with one voice, saying, “Tell unto us the good news first.”

And Moses replied and said, “I got Him down to ten.”

And the Children of Israel said unto Moses, “That is indeed good news. O Moses, is the bad news as bad as the good news is good?”

And the face of Moses was grave as he replied, “Yea, verily.”

And the Children of Israel moaned, and said, “Tell unto us the bad news.”

And Moses wept, saying, “Adultery’s still on the list.”

Bargaining, as Moses discovered, is a process of give and take. One reason the continuing resolution/debt ceiling imbroglio has been so hard to resolve – above and beyond the fundamental institutional insanity of the Republican Party – has been that the Teahadis started out with a list of ridiculous demands, and set the process up so that doing the normal and necessary things required to keep the government functioning counted as a “concession” on their part, which needed, for their honor, to be “balanced” by some concession from the President and the Democrats.


“We’re not going to be disrespected,”Stutzman said. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

That, it seems to me, is the background to the Democrats’ sudden demand that the sequester budget levels be put on the bargaining table, and Lindsay Graham’s whining about “moving the goalposts.”

Of course, it would be wonderful if the poll numbers had really made the Republicans desperate enough to concede something on spending. But in any case, the bargaining range is no longer between the Republicans’ extortion demands and the Democrats’ refusal to pay ransom, in which case a clean CR and debt ceiling extension would count as a complete defeat for the Republicans. Now the bargaining range contains actual concessions by Republicans, which makes the obvious, logical, rational outcome to the whole unnecessary affair a compromise.

No need need to thank us, Mr. Speaker. All part of our service with a smile.

Good news and bad news

In a Southern Republican primary, adultery turned out to be less of a burden for a candidate than Cayman Islands bank accounts. That reflects a clearer moral sense than I would have credited Southern Republicans with.

On the other side of the ledger, a single billionaire donating $5 million to a Super-PAC completely turned the campaign around in a week. $5M is chump change compared to the stakes in the American Presidency. If unlimited amounts of untraceable cash are going to be sloshing around, there’s no way to prevent the Chinese government, or the Iranian government, or the Saudi government, from playing the game. It isn’t hard for government-sized operations to channel the relevant amounts of money to U.S.-based corporations under their effective control.

Sheldon Adelson made most of his billions in Macao, which is Chinese territory; you can believe that Adelson’s political activities are immune from Chinese pressure if you like, but you can’t reasonably doubt that if China needed a tame U.S. billionaire it could easily create one. Campaign finance reform sounds like a boring topic, but fixing it in the wake of Citizens United isn’t just a matter of asserting democratic values over plutocratic ones; it’s a matter of national sovereignty and national security.