As President Obama and congressional leaders work feverishly to negotiate an end to the debt ceiling impasse, I am sure most Americans are keeping our fingers crossed that the parties reach a meaningful agreement that allows the country to avoid a ruinous default and credit rating downgrade.
If a deal is struck, news media pundits will promptly declare who came out a “winner” and who came out a “loser” in this torturous process. They may contend that President Obama was a loser because his call for increased taxes as part of a “balanced” approach was unsuccessful. They may argue that the Republicans were losers because they were maneuvered into a last-second backroom deal that doesn’t make enough spending cuts. Or perhaps the mantra will be that Harry Reid and Senate Democrats were marginalized during the final hours, or that “Tea Party” Republicans looked too uncompromising and unrealistic, or that progressives in Congress have lost their clout as the debate focuses totally on spending cuts.
The insistence on declaring triumphal winners and abject losers, with no middle ground, may be one reason why it has become so difficult for Washington to reach agreements. No one wants to be a “loser” because they know that General George Patton was right: Americans celebrate winners and despise losers. In this case, however, it’s hard to see how anyone comes out of this ridiculous process covered with glory. Our political leaders have failed to govern responsibly for so long, irrespective of which party has been in power, that there should be plenty of “loser” status to go around.
Update: As predicted (except this writer finds a lot of “winners” in the process).