Let’s Pass the Hat Around for the Guys

By: Randy Ataide

ObamaMore than a week into the government shutdown (well, at least partially shut down), it is increasingly difficult to sort through the distortion and editorializing that is framing this national dysfunction. What does seem clear is that neither the President nor the Speaker knows much about negotiating to a successful result. Their self-righteousness is tedious and shortsighted.

Much has been made of the President’s indignation towards being “blackmailed” about the demand of continued funding of the government related to the implementation of the Affordable-Care Act (AKA “Obama-Care”). On the other hand, the outrage by the Speaker towards “out of control spending” rings hollow, for when Republicans have held more political power, they too have acted like drunken cowboys on a spending spree after too long out on the range. Finger-pointing gets us nowhere, and the true suffering is by all of us, who still dutifully pay all of our taxes into the black hole of government but now with even less to show for it through this shutdown.

The capacity to set aside the inevitable posturing, posing and assertion of positions, no matter how hard or intransigent it may seem, is a sign of leadership and is clearly in short supply. Union and business negotiations, complex international disarmament or peace negotiations, and even prominent divorce proceedings have been far more shrill, antagonistic and pointed than the present dispute within our branches of government and personalities. These are common tactics in negotiations, and not without significant risks, but they are to be expected, noted and then dealt with across a table. Anyone who has taken even a short course in negotiation strategy will know this, and it should not preclude the entry into seeking an agreement. Wow! Here is a newsflash–representatives of sides to negotiations have to pander to their constituents, stakeholders and benefactors. Of course they do! But such posturing does not preclude sitting down to talk things through behind closed doors.

So I have an idea. There are great executive courses on negotiations available at a wide number of excellent universities. I have taken them at both Harvard Business School and at U.S.C. Both helped me immensely in my own negotiations. Anyone want to throw in a few bucks with me to purchase a gift certificate for Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner to go? And soon?!?! The quicker these guys get behind closed doors instead of in front of Fox News and CNN reporters the better we will all be.


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