David Brooks and E. J. Dionne actually disagreed on NPR Friday night about how the “fiscal cliff” talks are going. “We’re off to a really bad start,” Brooks declared about Obama’s pushing tax hikes for the rich and no movement on entitlements. The Obama team pushed the House GOP "back to Grover-ism," he complained.
Setting up the usual center vs. left debate, Dionne disagreed: “I think it's a good start. I think that we got so used to the idea in Washington that President Obama makes preemptive concessions before the other side puts anything concrete on the table, that we can't believe that he's just being a normal negotiator.” Then Brooks brought up the Lincoln movie, and Dionne compared Obama’s tax-hiking resolve to Lincoln’s resolve to ban slavery:
DAVID BROOKS: They [Republicans] know there was a mandate to raise taxes on the rich and so they've been trying to get their head around that. And if you're sensitive to that, you want to help them get to that spot, you know.If you watch the Abraham Lincoln movie, he understood the opposition and he met them on their ground, then he tried to seduce them over. And so the president has to get outside his bubble.
And I understand this gives, you know, this is red meat for the left. They love it. But if you want to get a deal with Republicans, who do control the House and probably will for a good long time, at least understand what they're going through and don't declare war. Listen, there's two rules of business we can do things in Washington.
There's the normal business rules, we have respectful conversations. And then there's the circus when we scream at each other. And if you're going out around the country rousing up the circus, then you'll play by circus rules, but you really won't get very far.
E.J. DIONNE: Lincoln stood his ground on the fundamental principle that we needed the 13th Amendment and needed to ban slavery. In fact, he was willing to have a Civil War on that question so this notion that...
ROBERT SIEGEL, NPR host: We'll argue about...
DIONNE: I'm tired of Lincoln metaphors.
BROOKS: This is one rate increase versus - 18 percent versus 19 percent. This is not a civil war.
Over on the PBS NewsHour, Brooks avoided the Lincoln metaphor, but his liberal counterpart Mark Shields said Brooks shouldn't obsess about process, because Obama stinks at congressional relations: "I'm saying the president is not good at congressional relations. He never has been. According to Mark Knoller at CBS News, who is the keeper of the flame in all of these things, he has played golf 104 times. Three times, he has played with a member of Congress, twice with Jim Clyburn, once with John Boehner...he's not somebody who schmoozes. He is not somebody who is good that way."