Sunday, September 15, 2013

Looking Ahead

Received positive comments on yesterday's posting "Reflections", where I argue that Obama is an integral leader, that he operates in and out of an integral level of consciousness, that he sees things differently than 95% of other people, and that he will engage skillfully and coherently in strategies that look unconnected, discontinuous, or just plain stupid to most others. Smartypants picked up my post in her posting today titled (marvelously) "A Both/And Leader in an Either/Or World". In future posts, I will flesh out the details of the integral leadership model. Today I want to look just a bit ahead, say out to Christmas.

For a reference point, I will use George Stephanopoulos' excellent interview with the President that aired this morning, including the  Roundtable discussion following the interview segment, with Matthew Dowd (ABC), Cokie Roberts (NPR), Paul Gigot (WSJ), Justin Amash (R, MI), and Donna
Edwards (D, MD). There is nothing unusual about this roundtable group, except that it was a bit more articulate, more thoughtful, and less doctrinaire than Meet the Press, Face the Nation or Fox News Panel Plus. Summary points from This Week's panel (shared in large part by the other networks panels):

  • Assad and Putin are the big winners from yesterday's events; the Syrian opposition and the US are the big losers.
  • Obama has taken a hit to his leadership image - the zig zags, turnabouts and reversals are clear evidence of shoddy thinking, poor planning, indecisiveness, and, yes, ineptitude.
  • 2013 will amount to a total write-off for the President: gun control rejected; immigration reform probably stuck in the House;  healthcare/ACA a train wreck; a failed Syria policy requiring rescue by Putin;  and a possible shutdown and/or debt default.
  • Obama's miscues in Syria will probably embolden Iran to keep pursuing nuclear weapons.
  • Obama's power as President is almost reduced to irrelevancy.

Before I give my view, check in with your own thoughts. What do you think of the above? And looking ahead, how would you answer the following questions:
  • Will the Russian-American Syria CW disarmament plan work? Will we make measurable progress by Thanksgiving? Will there be a UN Resolution? Will both Russia and China vote Aye? Will peace negotiations under UN auspices begin by Christmas?
  • Will discussions with Iran, which begin next week, start out well? Will there be a serious offer on the table with a real chance of success by Christmas?
  • Will Obamacare results by Christmas be generally positive (some Exchange glitches, good signups overall, good participation by the under 30 age group)?
  • Will there be either a Government Shutdown, or a Default/near Default event before Christmas?
  • If Yes, what will be done to effect a resolution? If No, will Boehner have broken the Hastert rule and allowed the full House to vote on the Budget, the Debt Ceiling, and possibly Immigration, even though a majority of his caucus is not on board - in other words, will he have secured Democratic help to avoid the Shutdown or Default?
  • Will Democrats win the House in 2014?
My answer to all the questions in the first four bullet points is Yes. I'm not sure if we will have a Shutdown or a near Default. The GOP will win nothing from all this, and might well have to cough up new tax revenues through closing loopholes. Because I say Yes on Bullet 4 (Shutdown/Default or near Default), I am Yes on Bullet 6 - the Dems will retake the House in 2014. The one thing that could change that, in my opinion, is if Boehner breaks the Hastert rule and uses Democratic votes to pass a Budget and a Debt Ceiling increase. Thus far, he has not convinced me he's the kind of leader that would do this - but here I might be wrong.

So let's assume I am mostly right in my predictions. How will Obama's 2013 year be evaluated then? How "strong" will he appear to be? Will pundits guess that the House may truly be in play, that there's a real chance Obama could finish his second term on very powerful notes, finally passing Immigration and Climate Warming legislation?

I believe we are just entering the most remarkable political period in many years. I have seen this coming on the Budget side. Obama began planning this in late 2010 when Bowles-Simpson was issued. He needed to get to $4 trillion in 10 year deficit reduction, and then tell the GOP, the budget work/deficit reduction efforts are done. No more, at least no more Cuts Only agreements. If you want more cuts, we need taxes. We hit the magic $4 trillion number in April, when the sequester kicked in. So we've gone far enough. Time to stop. Time to remove some dumb sequester cuts and replace them with new revenues. We can even nip at the entitlements, but not much. Healthcare costs are moderating. We simply no longer have a long term budget problem. So since the GOP was and is likely to ignore all this, there will be, Obama knew, a showdown. And that's just about here.

What I never guessed was that a fulcrum point would come in the Syria crisis that would allow Obama to fully embody and execute the two track strategy: military strike and peace through diplomacy. This scenario is running now, and guess who is watching very closely - Iran. Thus my prediction that by Christmas, Obama will have won the budget battle, and there will be a brave new diplomatic world, where Syria and Iran are moving towards peace, without the US taking military action. The threat of such action, yes. But the open, diplomatic hand actually leading the way towards making peace.

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