Did President Obama’s negotiating “Trollope Ploy” on the “fiscal cliff” just fail? Named after an incident in an Anthony Trollope novel, this ploy is used in negotiations when one party decides to focus on a certain part or a certain phase of the other party’s proposal and try to make it final. The term was coined, I believe in the Cuban Missile Crisis when on one day Khrushchev sent a reassuring private letter to President Kennedy stating that he would withdraw the Soviet missiles from Cuban soil unilaterally. The next day, in a letter released publicly and perhaps not even written by the Soviet premier, Russia insisted upon the condition of withdrawal of U.S. missiles in Turkey. Kennedy, upon the advice of his adviser, simply ignored the second letter and concentrated on the first as the basis for settlement.
Something similar seems to have happened in the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations between President Obama and Speaker Boehner. The Reasonable Speaker signaled that he was open to maintaining tax cuts for people earning less than $400,000 and stepping them up on incomes above. Obama pounced, using that “breakthrough” as a basis for what seemed like an emerging agreement, although perhaps not precisely at that income cut-off. But then the Republican Politburo got hold of Mr. Boehner and turned him into Hard-line Speaker. No new taxes on anyone but millionaires became his snapback position. So now we have the spectacle of the speaker, apparently, doing what? Giving his caucus a meaningless vote? Pushing us over the cliff? My Christmas wish is the Reasonable Speaker makes a reappearance fast.