Monday, September 30, 2013

Capitol Games

Last week I mentioned briefly that faux-filibuster perpetrated by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and made a passing reference to coverage of televised poker coverage by way of comparison. Over the weekend I read a piece about Cruz and his bit of political theater which noted how Cruz himself had used a poker analogy to describe his own strategy.

We’re seeing today how the crisis over passing a spending bill to fund the government for the upcoming fiscal year (scheduled to begin tomorrow) is reaching a kind of climax, with a government shutdown now appearing a distinct possibility. The issue goes back to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- a.k.a. “Obamacare” -- and the efforts of some Republicans to have the new spending bill include amendments to it, something the Dems aren’t willing to accept.

Seeing references to this issue as a “bargaining chip” (again, evoking poker vocabulary). Although it doesn’t actually sound much like anyone’s in the mood to bargain.

Cruz’s 21-plus hour speech last week was motivated by his wish to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Responding to a question by his colleague Rand Paul (R-KY) about whether or not he could go along with any sort of middle-ground solution that didn’t involve defunding the new health care law, Cruz couched his negative response in the language of cards.

“In a game of poker,” explained Cruz, “if somebody makes a bet, and then says to you, ‘if you raise me, I’m going to fold,’ [he] will lose 100 percent of [his] poker games.”

In other words -- if I’m following correctly -- Cruz is choosing this way to express an unwillingness to compromise at all when it comes to Obamacare. Cruz (and the other non-negotiating Tea Partiers) is making a bet, he says, and is not going to give his opponent any indication that he might fold (give in) should his opponent respond with a raise, because to do so would be a losing strategy.

Brings to mind players who cannot bring themselves to fold after having put any chips at all in the middle. Of course, table talk can be misleading sometimes. A player could well say he’d fold to a raise, then do something else. That is to say, I’m not sure the analogy is as obvious as Cruz seems to think, and I can imagine several better ones to indicate more clearly an intention not to fold.

Anyhow, watching the news today and the deepening impasse on Capitol Hill, the only poker analogy that comes to mind would be one involving players stalling on the bubble. Or maybe something having to do with not playing with a full deck.

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