December 7th, 2012
03:54 PM ET

Letters to the President #1418: 'Do I detect a deal?'

Reporter's Note: President Obama and the Republicans have been butting heads over the fiscal cliff, and yet now…maybe they are finally pushing each other away from the brink a bit.

Dear Mr. President,

One of the peculiar features of schoolyard fights back in the day was that the threats became most heated when the combatants had little or not interest in actually fighting. When two guys squared off and filled the air with invectives, explaining in detail how they would beat the other into humiliation, you could almost bet your lunch money that not a single fist would fly. The real fighters, in my experience, were usually much more quiet. They might give one warning. At most two. Then they took your teeth out.

That’s why I find myself heading into the weekend feeling oddly encouraged about the fiscal cliff negotiations. I can’t say exactly how it happened, but sometime this morning I was listening to coverage of the continuing fight, and I suddenly thought “ They've got the makings of a deal.”

Call it instinct, but it feels as if the sharpness of the comments has shifted ever so slightly. Now it sounds truly as if both sides are talking to their bases, flinging around tough words, and trying to convince folks that they've waged a Titanic battle…while in reality, I suspect, you've all found some kind of way to get past the cliff with a series of tortured but workable compromises. At least I hope so.

Of course, being the kind of guy I am, I would prefer that you’d all just walk out and say something like, “After an afternoon of realizing what ninnies we are, we've decided to do the right thing. We've each given a few concessions. No one is gong to be thrilled with the deal, but that is the nature of compromise.”

But since that is not going to happen, I will content myself with listening to the continuing posturing while privately reassuring myself that it is nothing more than that…and there is a bridge, shaky as it may be, across the awful chasm.

Call if you want to chat about it. You don’t have to tell me any details, but if I am right about there being a deal in the works maybe you can give me a code phrase. How about “I just bought a nice clawfoot bathtub.”



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