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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "Our Democracy Is at Stake": In Hostage Situations, You Need a Skilled Negotiator

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Our Democracy Is at Stake" (, Thomas Friedman would have us know that the US government shutdown is a hostage situation. Friedman writes:

"This time is different. What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule. President Obama must not give into this hostage taking — not just because Obamacare is at stake, but because the future of how we govern ourselves is at stake.

. . . .

President Obama is not defending health care. He’s defending the health of our democracy. Every American who cherishes that should stand with him."

Okay, suppose we are dealing with a hostage situation. In such situations, in order to avoid great damage, a skilled negotiator is brought in to to reach a desired outcome, which does not endanger the hostages and cause unanticipated damage.

The health of America's democracy? As a skilled negotiator, I don't even want to go there. Given the severity of the crisis, it's irrelevant to me.

How we got into this hostage situation? Who is to blame? Again, as a skilled negotiator, I want to put this to the side. We can discuss it at a later date, when the crisis has been defused.

The two sides are unwilling to talk and the potential for damage is mounting? Let me step in and start to talk, calmly and objectively, so that egos don't get in the way of a solution.

Where to begin? Let me find where there is any meeting of the minds, no matter how small. How about the welfare of the United States? Are there even minor concessions that both sides can make?

Obama is defending the health of America's democracy? Every American should stand with him? Sorry, but these are platitudes, which will drive the two sides even further apart. To avoid a looming disaster, bring in a skilled negotiator, capable of reaching a compromise, with a history of deal making, and let him/her get to work.

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