Palin, Poker, and The Debt Ceiling

Guest Submission by C4P Commenter “John” Smith

Say what you will about Harry Reid, but the fact is that the man is an excellent political negotiator.

He plays every political hand that he’s dealt as if he’s holding four aces, whether he actually has four aces or not. He may be a curmudgeon. He may be goofy. But, never forget that he made his political bones in Nevada cowboy politics and making political deals with the mob.

As good a natural political poker player as Reid is, his skills are accentuated when he sits at a table with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. Boehner, bless his heart, is an honest man. Every hand, he’s dealt three tens. And, every hand, just to be fair, he shows his cards before the betting begins.

McConnell, by contrast, doesn’t flip his cards in advance, but he also is risk averse. He’s so risk averse that he plays every hand like he’s holding a pair of jacks, even if he’s holding better cards.

Six days ago, these three gentlemen sat down to play their latest hand of political poker over the debt ceiling. Boehner flipped his cards, thought “I’ve got a pretty good hand”, and came out with a big bet (cap, cut, and balance). McConnell, ever the gentleman, decided to call to help his friend John Boehner build the pot. Reid called too and then said “you’re betting too big to win this hand”.

The way their poker games usually play out from there is this. In the next round of betting, Boehner bets small, McConnell calls, and Reid then steals the pot with a big bet. Boehner and McConnell then claim “victory” because they didn’t lose as much money as they could have.

So it was that Boehner had a second deal all set to pass the House that Reid could then take, ignore (amend), and send back his deal, a deal for a 2.7 trillion dollar debt limit hike coupled with 2.7 trillion in spending cuts, of which 30 billion were verifiable and the balance came in the form of nebulous “promises” not to hike spending over the next ten years as much as previously planned.

Boehner would twist enough arms to get it passed, and all of the experts would talk about his victory because taxes were taken off the table and because there were spending cuts, albeit only 30 billion of which were quantifiable.

Yes, some people would be a little pissed about how this process played out and what the deal looked like, but they’d get over it. Twas always thus, and always thus would be.

But, as the saying goes, “a funny thing happened on the way to the forum”. Right before the second round of betting, right before Boehner sent his watered down deal to the Senate, this stupid, know-nothing, meddlesome housewife from Wasilla, Alaska phoned into the table last Thursday and said “I’m all in”.

Everyone went nuts. Poker expert Charles Krauthammer advised the House to ignore that housewife, fold, and declare victory. Poker expert Laura Ingraham decried the audacity of this housewife sitting at the table with the grown-ups and advised her and the rest of the little people to defer to the experts. Political blood flowed. Recriminations and threats flew everywhere.

Today is Sunday. No deal has been finalized. But, the deal that will be finalized supposedly will look like this: 2.4 trillion dollar debt ceiling hike, 1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years (only 30 billion verifiable), and 1.4 trillion in triggered, across the board, mandatory cuts if a to-be-named debt advisory panel can’t make and get passed a comparable deal.

Is it a perfect deal? No, it still sucks. But, it’s still a hell of a lot better than what it would have been if that stupid housewife from Wasilla hadn’t chimed in on Facebook on Thursday and encouraged freshmen Republicans to hold the line.

And, herein lies the magic of Palin. What I suspect is that she knows perfectly well, in this political environment, that cap, cut, and balance wasn’t going to pass. But, unlike Boehner and McConnell, she sees no reason to capitulate in advance.

No, odd as it may sound, she’s a lot like Harry Reid when it comes to political negotiations. Palin made her bones going toe to toe with the Frank Murkowski’s and Big Oil executives of this world. When she sits down at the poker table, she plays every hand like she’s holding a royal flush.

Frankly, that’s why she accomplished more in two years as Governor of Alaska than all of the Republicans running for President have in their combined political careers. She understands how the game is played. She never got exactly the deal she wanted. In politics, you never do.

But, unlike the geniuses of the GOP establishment and unlike the so-called experts who opine from afar about “the little people,” when it comes to policy debates, she knows when to hold them, when to fold them, when to walk away, and when to run.

Once again, she played The Political Gambler, and the deal the American people are going to get as a result is far better (or, perhaps more precisely, appreciably less awful) than it otherwise would have been.

P.S.: Unlike all of the Republican presidential candidates who said “oh, make the original deal” or “no deals”, that stupid housewife from Wasilla actually can claim when all is said and done “I don’t like the deal, but it’s better than it would have been if we hobbits hadn’t spoken up”.

P.P.S. I do not know what the exact nature of the debt committee is, as details have not been confirmed.  I would assume that whatever they approve must have majority consent and then the consent of both houses of Congress.  If that is the case, then one would assume that we’re going to get the across the board triggered cuts.  If that is not the case and the committee somehow automatically can do its own tax hikes and/or spending cuts without further consent, then I suspect the stupid housewife from Wasilla might offer a future facebook post about that being another example of all that is wrong with politics in Washington.

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