Today's buzzword is <<Brinkmanship>>. Look around, you hear it everywhere these days. History teachers, rejoice... you can dust off your lesson plans that connect to Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. So, here is a little ditty about brinkmanship and compromise.
Brinkmanship: also brinks·man·ship n.The practice, especially in international politics, of seeking advantage by creating the impression that one is willing and able to push a highly dangerous situation to the limit rather than concede.
There is, without a doubt, evidence of brinkmanship in domestic policy today in D.C. (Unfortunately, the perilous events are impacting everyone but Congress... unless you count yesterday's sad events between the White House and the Capitol.)
I decided that it was time to do some light reading about a time in which brinkmanship was not the standard practice between the Speaker (and the Dirty Thirty) and the POTUS.
I got my hands on a new book, Tip and the Gipper, by Chris Matthews, after listening to an extended interview of Mr. Matthews on my way home on Tuesday.
Partisan politics and the liberal leaning of Matthews aside, I have throughly enjoyed the easy cadence and prospective that he brings to the discussion of how things work in D.C. Matthews does a great job at offering a tutorial on how to compromise and negotiate against the odds... and states that what was an underpinning commonality for O'Neill and Reagan is that they both wanted to work for the common good... that inaction was unacceptable. (Wait, what are you implying today?) We don't see that today. In fact, the media has even brought in experts in negotiation to offer pointers.
Specifically, I have really found Matthews' explanation of the relationship between the President and the second most powerful person in the government... The Speaker. He spins the tale so that it is easy to see how the Founding Fathers intentionally put these two roles (and their egos) at odds with each other... The President's expansive powers in the execution of law and the final check on the legislative process juxtaposed with the Speaker's hands on the purse strings of the Federal government.
This is a great resource for educators who want to add complexity and depth in their discussion of checks and balances, Congress, the President, the power of the purse, and even Presidential Signing Statements and Executive Orders.
Perhaps we can purchase a copy for Boehner & Obama to thaw their all to frosty relationship. I think it needs to "after six o'clock" for the next few months.
I sit in front of my wall of learning. (You know, a bookshelf filled with books that one day will make a learned backdrop for my tv spots.) I have read (most of) them... but they are so specialized that they don't get to come out in heavy rotation day to day.
There are some books I have in front of me, on my desk, for me to oogle over daily. And I do. Here are two of them. The appropriately named The Politics Book and The Economics Book.
They are both by DK publishing, and cover political and economic theory. I use them frequently. When I need a quick brush up on Pinochet & Hayek... they are my saviors.
They are conscise; they are interconnected. They give theory, and then site real world application. They have great visuals. They are written in text that is accessible to students. They are FUN! (as fun as this stuff can be).
Photo via Flickr/Ted Eytan