Laying Down The Gauntlet

Our president has made an offer to the entire Republican caucus.  Those are the politicians who he needs to convince to go his way, and it is the most significant move Mr. Obama has made since he invited Speaker Boehner over for a beer.  He invited the Republicans over for a game of cards.

I am not a gambling person, and it makes me very uncomfortable when the President of the United States invites a bunch of politicians of the Other Party over to gamble.  At this point, though, what do have to lose?  Our elected officials can’t make a decision if their lives depended on it, so splitting a deck of cards on our national future might not be so bad. 

What are the odds? 

They can’t be worse than 50/50, unless we’re talking about them holding a poker game.  If that’s the game, I suggest and request that the Republicans and the Democrats bring their own cards.  We don’t want a stacked deck when it comes to the budget and the deficit.  We could get flim-flammed from politicians.

Wait, I know what you’re thinking.  Either way, we’re going to get screwed, and life as we know it will be worse tomorrow.  But give these guys a chance.  They have made their careers in politics by screwing over the American public, so they must be pretty good at screwing with Barack Obama.  In fact, they may find that they like each other, and after all of the screwing and back-stabbing is done, we may have a budget.  Or maybe budget cuts.  Like Planned Parenthood, which never planned anything, and doesn’t like parenthood.  Or maybe the defense budget, or at least those projects that are so far out there that no thinking person would ever pay good money to see if they work.  It may be a good idea to curtail the subsidizing of big boys playing with big toys.

So the poker game begins.  We see some of our most senior and powerful representatives pitted against our elected president in his lame duck term.  They are all smoking cigars, even the non-smokers.  Most big deals are made in smoke-filled rooms.  It’s tradition.  They face off, and the gauntlet is laid down on the poker table.  A budget.  It’s the pot.  If the Republicans win, the president capitulates.  If the president wins, he gets his way.  On everything.  The caucus will retreat with their tails between their legs, and the Obama agenda will become real.  It was always 50/50, with a lot of juggling of the balance of power in-between, but it has always been close.  A shuffle of the deck, the splitting of cards, and the future is secured.

President Obama shuffles.  He splits the deck.  He shuffles again.  The temperature of the room rises.  These are big stakes.  None bigger.  We’re talking about trillions of dollars.  The national pot has never been bigger.  He glares at his opponents with poker eyes.  They glare back at him as the cards are dealt.

“Seven card stud,” calls the president.

“Five cards would be adequate,” says the Speaker.

“You’re playing my game,” says the president “I won the election”.

“Aces wild,” says the Speaker. The speaker gleams with delight.

“Have you guys played cards before?” the president declares. They all laugh, holding their cards close to their chests.

“I suppose that this card game will determine not only the future of our country, but which of us is the worst negotiator,” said the president.

“Mr. President, I expect that no matter who wins, we will all be labeled as heroes or fools,” responded Speaker Boehner.

“Let’s play!”  They all announced in unison.

“I’ll take three cards,” announced the Speaker. 

They went around the table, with some of the caucus members taking one, two, or three cards.  At the head of the table, Barack Obama sat still, examining the faces of his opponents with a determined stare.  He didn’t ask for any cards.  He, too, held his cards close to his chest, not pausing to cast a glance at what he held in his hand.  Finally, it came time to call.  The other members of the caucus folded in disgust.  It was down to the Republican leader of the House of Representatives and the re-elected President.

“What do you have, Mr. Speaker?”  Mr. Boehner was gleaming with delight, a tear in his eye.  “Full house.”  He laid the cards on the table for all to see.  There was loud applause and a lot of back-slapping.  Surely, he had the winning hand.

“Not so fast,” said the president.

“What could you have that will beat a full house?” said Mr. Boehner.

“Five aces,” he said, laying his cards out one by one.

“Remember, I’m holding all of the cards, and it’s my deck…”

The national budget lays glowing red in the middle of the massive table.  It festers like a sore, writhing in agony, cast upon the betting table.  The national future is in the death throes of government.  Do nothing and die.  Make the wrong decisions, and make things worse.  Make the best decisions, the ones that will lead the nation back to prosperity and prestige, and the players in the game come out as heroes. The present state of politics is a surreal world of indecision. By deferring the tough decisions that need to be made, both parties in Congress are running from a fight that needs to be fought.

The real key to winning the game is the resolution of a festering problem. Americans are fed up with the idea that their elected officials had failed them on every front. They are weary of politics, elections, and the never ending unresolved conflicts that threaten their standard of living, their dreams, and the American Way.

It was never an issue of right and wrong.  The concept of right has been distorted, and wrong is a matter of perspective.  It’s a question of direction.  Why not choose on the split of a deck, a little shuffling, and the deal of cards? Congress is good about gambling our future.

Mark E. Becker is a lawyer, a mediator, and the author of political thrillers, At Risk of Winning and No Corner to Hide, the first two novels in the Max Masterson series. Visit to read more articles from Mark and to check out sample chapters from his novels.