Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Nobody should be surprised that the “fiscal cliff” negotiations are going down to the wire, and perhaps beyond it. Republicans and Democrats have been fighting tooth and nail over these budget issues for years now, and nobody is about to concede gracefully to the other side. Only when both sides are absolutely sure that the deal on the table is the only deal available, and that the deal is better than the alternative–an unpleasant package of tax hikes and budget cuts that will take effect automatically in January–is there a possibility that both sides will accept the deal. In this situation, the deadline itself might be the only thing that will force the parties to make a deal, which means […]

Is a willingness to negotiate a sign of weakness? That seems to be the thrust of the critique of Thomas Frank, the latest prominent leftist critic of the Obama administration. Frank charges that Obama gave away too much to the right, because he stressed the importance of bi-partisanship, when he should have been fighting harder on substantive issues, such as punishing Wall Street bankers, or achieving more economic stimulus. Frank seems to think because the president placed the ideal of bi-partisanship above these other policy goals, he was forced to concede too much to the opposition. The idea is that Obama’s emphasis on bi-partisanship makes him a bad negotiator. Frank thinks that if you announce agreement with them in a cooperative way, that will make […]

A piece in the New York Times last week called How Liberals Win, reminds us of the deals that FDR and LBJ made with corporate power in order to enact their signature reforms.  What President Obama did to pass health care reform followed that tradition. But when the Obama administration made a deal with pharmaceutical companies to obtain their support for health insurance reform, many of his supporters viewed that agreement as a sell-out. In hindsight, however, it appears that that agreement may have been crucial to obtaining passage of the Affordable Care Act. Remember that Clinton failed at gaining health insurance reform, because his proposals fell victim to a fierce and unrelenting advertising campaign by the health insurance industry. Clinton lost that battle […]

According to a new book by Robert Draper, a group of Republican leaders got together on Barack Obama’s inauguration day 2009 and hatched a plan to oppose and obstruct anything the new administration would put forward. Republican House member Kevin McCarthy supposedly said, “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.” At the end of this meeting, Newt Gingrich told the group they would remember this day. “You’ll remember this as the day the seeds of 2012 were sown.” Some reports have said the revelations about this secret meeting are not exactly news. No matter. It’s still important to keep in mind what lots of other evidence tells us: before the details of a single plan by the new president were known, leading Republicans […]

Anyone who has still been following budget negotiations in Congress has no doubt noticed that they have reached another interesting stage.  Recall that last summer Congress struck a deal in which Republicans agreed to go along with raising the debt ceiling, in exchange for appointing a super committee to come up with additional debt reduction measures. The deal was that if the super-committee could not agree on such measures, then automatic spending cuts, that were designed to be unpalatable to both sides, would take effect. Well, of course in November the super-committee failed to agree (because Democrats insisted that revenue enhancements be part of the mix, and Republicans refused to consider that), and now Congress is faced with the prospect […]