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On Those Debt Ceiling Negotiations


TIME's Jay Newton-Small sees a big problem with the direction that the debt-ceiling talks have taken:
The episode illustrates how far apart the two sides remain, even as the nation stands at the brink. But perhaps almost as troubling is Cantor’s litigation of this tension in the press. I have never seen negotiations broadcast so openly. It’s not a good sign. For every major successful bill I’ve covered on the Hill — Medicare Part D, the Bush tax cuts, the 2005 energy bill, CAFTA, the pension overhaul, TARP, the stimulus and health care reform — the principals always came out of the room and said, ‘We’re making progress,’ or ‘Nice try, but I’m not going to negotiate with you,’ or even, ‘I’m not going to negotiate with myself.’

An agreement on raising the debt ceiling will not come from winning a spin war. If talks collapse, both sides will be blamed and whatever they’re saying now really won’t matter much in the face of economic disaster. The only solution at this point is to bite the bullet and draft a deal everyone is unhappy with. And the more public the process is – both for Cantor and the President – the harder it will become to reach a deal behind closed doors. Don’t get me wrong, I like getting the story as much as the next reporter. And if something big happens, we usually find out. But when talks blow up there’s a real risk: if negotiators can’t trust each other not to snipe in the press — and this goes for both Cantor and the President, who has given his fair share of press conferences during this — how can they trust each other to join arms and enact something as painful as deficit reduction?
My emphasis.

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Cartoon: Robert Ariail