Jonathan Strong of NRO reports that Harry Reid has not been involved in the negotiations between the White House and congressional Republicans to make a deal that would raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown. Is this a case of Democrats playing good-cop/bad-cop? And if so, who is the good cop?
Obama and Reid both share the same overriding goal — crushing congressional Republicans. Both, presumably, are delighted with poll results that show Republicans taking a big hit over the government shutdown.
But there is some divergence of interests. Obama is president. As such, he presumably must worry more than Reid about the potential adverse consequences that most expect would occur if the debt ceiling isn’t raised.
Reed has little cause to worry much about how history will judge this showdown. Obama does. I doubt that he wishes to be remembered as the president whose refusal seriously to negotiate helped trigger a recession. Bob Woodward would be more than happy to write that book.
To be sure, Obama isn’t running for reelection. As Nate Silver points out, this means he has somewhat less incentive to make a deal than he did in 2011, when an economic downturn would have jeopardized his reelection prospects. But Obama is still running for “historically great president.” Such presidents don’t preside over two recessions.
Reid has to keep his Senate Democrat colleagues happy, which means being highly attentive to the 2014 election. Presumably, if he sees polls that show the current standoff hurting endangered Democrats like Sens. Landrieu and Pryor, he will look for an exit strategy. Presumably, he has yet to see such polls.
There is also a divergence of personalities between Obama and Reid. It seems to me that Obama is the more flexible of the two — both in terms of the willingness to make a deal and the capacity to find a creative one.
In sum, Obama seems like the good cop, comparatively speaking. And though there may be an element of a “good cop, bad cop” act here, I don’t assume that this is the entire story.