Politics and the danger of bluffing

Neither party is holding onto a royal flush.

Any decent poker player knows that a bluff is only good if you can sell it.

Sure, you can take the kitty with a pair of threes if you have nerves of steel and a poker face like Lyndon Johnson.  But twitch an eyelash, or twiddle a pinky, and you’ll be cleaned out faster than an old man drinking prune juice.

Unfortunately this is a principle that many in the D.C. crowd have yet to grasp.  

As President Obama, his Democrats, and the Republicans gathered to hash out a deal on the debt ceiling, the bluffs have been fairly filling the air. One after another, politicians have suggested that they are willing to bet everything on this issue — public opinion, the fragile economy, even the next election — before compromising on certain principles. And yet, most have simultaneously said that they truly think a default on the national debt could be catastrophic, and they are committed to heading it off.

What has emerged is a peculiar circumstance in which each side is steadily upping the ante, while having already admitted the fundamental weakness of their hands and that the cops are coming to break up the game any moment anyway. So why are they doing it?  
 
First, because each side believes if it holds on long enough, the other side will fold before the paddy wagon arrives. Even with the clock ticking down to default, Republicans think they can convince you that the Democrats are out-of-control spending ninnies who will tax you from here to Tulsa. Democrats think they can convince you that Republicans are heartless little Monopoly men who want to replace grandma’s Social Security check with a Cup-A-Soup and a rabbit’s foot. If either side can close the deal with voters, it will be a big win heading into the 2012 election cycle.

But there is a second reason the bluffers are so furiously putting it all on the line.  They’ve already bet way too much. Like a guy who has put the rent money onto the table, they have reached a point where they don’t feel like they can back down.  

Because not only would that cost the losing party a lot of chips, it could also make it very hard for them to pull off of any kind of bluff in D.C. for a long time.
 
– CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360°”/www.ac360.com and “The Situation Room.”
Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author, or any opinions expressed on its pages. Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Send submissions to letters@metro.us.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor reveals new tech hub Digital.NYC

Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed Digital.NYC on Wednesday, a new online platform aimed at connecting all things tech in New York City. The public-private partnership…

Local

Falling debris hits two men in Times Square

Two men were taken to the hospital Wednesday morning after being hit by falling debris from 110 feet above Times Square. Nancy Greco from the…

Local

Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough accused of misusing campaign…

Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough has been indicted on state and federal charges for allegedly withdrawing campaign funds as cash for personal use. Scarborough, a Democrat…

News

U.S. Secret Service director Pierson resigns under fire

U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned under fire on Wednesday after a series of security lapses came to light.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, Oct. 1: 'Criminal Minds,'…

The "Criminal Minds" team adds some supernatural assistance, as the "Ghost Whisperer" herself, Jennifer Love Hewitt, joins the show. She's playing an FBI agent, but you never know when someone…

Music

See the most popular Pandora station in your…

Who knew Bachata music was so popular?

The Word

The Word: Twilight just won't die

You thought our "Twilight" days were behind us, didn't you? Well think again. Series creator Stephenie Meyer (who would rather you not ask about "Twilight"…

Going Out

Which NYC restaurant lost its three-star Michelin rating?

A record 73 restaurants in New York City collected coveted Michelin stars on Tuesday as a mix of trendy spots and fine-dining stalwarts underscored the…

NFL

Rex Ryan fields more questions about Geno Smith,…

The idea Geno Smith will be replaced by backup Michael Vick appears to be all smoke, as the Jets are intent to ride with their second-round draft pick.

NFL

Will Beatty playing like franchise left tackle again…

Left tackle Will Beatty, who is the elder-statesman of Giants’ line, has turned around his season and become a consistent force on Manning’s blindside.

NFL

John Conner back with Jets for second stint

He'll be back. It's "Terminator 2" for the Jets, who brought back John Conner to the team on Tuesday after placing fullback Tommy Bohanon on…

NFL

Fantasy football: Ben Tate to break out, Larry…

Fantasy football: Ben Tate to break out, Larry Donnell will stay solid

Career

Creating a support system for minority women in…

When Kathryn Finney founded digitalundivided — an organization devoted to engaging minority communities with the tech world — she didn’t know quite what to expect.…

Sex

We can learn a lot from animals about…

There’s a lot we can learn about love from the birds and the bees — and the chickens, monkeys and squirrels that we share the…

Style

Saint Laurent

Our review of the Saint Laurent Spring '15 show at Paris Fashion Week.

Style

Céline: Paris Fashion Week Spring 2015

Our review of the Celine Spring '15 show during Paris Fashion Week.