Frankly, if these hacks were my associates, they’d be on a street corner with signs reading “Will litigate for food.”
Congress is famously full of lawyers, but what people don’t understand is that it is really full of bad lawyers. Good lawyers tend not to want to take the pay cut. And the current crop of Republican leaders negotiate like bad lawyers do, which is great for President Obama. He’s giddy, and I know the feeling. When I face opponents like Boehner’s bunch at a mediation, I start checking out new 6-series convertibles on my iPhone.
A good negotiator, first and foremost, understands his client’s goals. This seems pretty basic – you want to know what the people you represent want to achieve by negotiating. However, this concept seems lost on the GOP.
Their clients – the voters who elected them – were pretty clear. No tax increases. Period. After all, not one Republican congressman was elected on a platform promising “I will raise taxes in order to help Obama morph America into Greece.” Well, maybe some of the ones from New England did, but that’s beside the point.
The client doesn’t want tax increases. This implies that the GOP should – wait for it – not support tax increases.
Naturally, the first thing the GOP does is roll over. Then to compound it, Lindsay and Saxby smarm up the Sunday morning talk shows with sanctimonious talk about how they are so patriotic that they are compelled to break their solemn pledge to their constituents never to raise taxes.
So, having not just discarded the client’s intent, the congressional GOP then rubbed its clients’ collective nose in it. There’s nothing that sets you up for failure like setting your sights on a goal that, to your client, constitutes failure.
Besides knowing what the client wants – and not utterly ignoring it – the skilled negotiator next figures out what the other side wants. Negotiations are rarely just about the putative subject. In a lawsuit, sure there’s money, but there is also often emotions – anger, pride, and so forth. All of these play a role. And sometimes, there is another objective entirely.