Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Snowe's Vote

I was reminded today of years long past as I watched a video of Olympia Snowe's meandering and toothless justification for her committee vote in favor of sending on Max Baucus' health care plan. She certainly expended a lot of words while straddling the middle of a teetering fence. Snowe spent several minutes engaging in what has become a perpetual professional quest for her, ensuring everyone how tough she really is while simultaneously caving in. Don't accuse her of being unable to multitask.

Oh sure, she does reserve the right to become the bad guy at some point in the future because, as she says, she is capable of being tough, very tough. Tough as nails, if you get her drift. She voted for passage today, but she may not vote for it in the future. Do not make the mistake of misinterpreting her stance today, because she may be tough later. Yada, yada, yada. I've seen that strategy before.

I was reminded of my adolescent years bagging groceries. One of my most vivid recollections of those years spent smashing bread and breaking eggs was watching mothers negotiate with their children at the checkout counter where, just beyond the reach of the kids' fingers, hung the delicious candies and gums. Kids like 'em some candy, and they are not afraid to make their desires known.

Negotiations do not work in the long term if there is no fear of potential consequences. Both sides in a substantive negotiation must have something expendable to give up and something valuable to withhold. Those same children that tasted the fruit of tantrum at the age of three were still enjoying an angry harvest at the age of six and seven. The children that learned early that their histrionics would earn them no favors learned their lesson completely. Parents too willing to soothe the rotten teeth of their screaming cherubs were always taken advantage of and seemingly never learned a thing.

This reminds me of Olympia Snowe--willing to negotiate to the point that no one takes her seriously any more. The Democrats know she will cave and the Republicans know she will cave too.

Certainly a political legacy one can be proud of.

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