[ by Charles Cameron — bipartisan Congress trumps Trump ]
Grasping the meaning of pop lyrics isn’t my forte, but this song’s title, Two Against One, fits with the point I’m making in this post..
I’ve talked about three-way games in Numbers by the numbers: three / pt 1, Of games III: Rock, Paper, Tank and Spectacularly non-obvious, I: Elkus on strategy & games — and very likely elsewhere —
— ah yes, in Spectacularly non-obvious, 2: threeness games, where I describe my own three-way game in a hotel swimming pool.
Today brought us a significant three-way play in Congress:
By cutting a bipartisan spending compromise among themselves, Republicans and Democrats in Congress not only prevented the White House from delivering on President Trump’s priorities in his very first budget, they also drafted a handy blueprint for circumventing the Trump administration in the future.
It was an outcome that should worry the new president even though Mr. Trump will be spared the humiliation of a government shutdown early in his tenure if he signs the legislation.
“We were sort of a united front, Republicans and Democrats, opposed to Trump,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, in an interview.
Not exactly the words a president wants to hear in the opening months of his term — that the two usually warring parties on Capitol Hill instead joined forces to gang up on him. But that is essentially what happened.
Republicans, protective of their spending priorities, chose to cooperate with Democrats in the House and Senate to work out a five-month package they could all live with, ignoring demands from the White House for deep spending cuts in areas like environmental protection.
By insisting on proposals that both parties on Capitol Hill knew could not pass — the border wall funding in particular — the White House took itself out of the game and ceded power to Congress. Members of both parties, freed to direct money to favored initiatives, eagerly seized the opportunity and increased funding for agencies such as the National Institutes of Health rather than cutting it.
And here’s my swimming pool game, with commentary, by way of comparison:
The idea is simplicity itself, putting it into words unambiguously is difficult.
Yesterday I was at a hotel swimming pool where two sons of another guest and my own son Emlyn were playing around together, all aged around 10-12, with nobody else there, and I asked them to play a game where one of the three would be “top guy” and the other two would try to dunk and generally overthrow him, and as soon as it became clear that the top guy had been dunked and dethroned, there would be a new “top guy” (one of the two who had been doing the overthrowing and come out the obvious winner) and the other two would pounce on him…
They were not evenly matched, but any one of them was easily outmatched by the other two working together, and being “top guy” meant your head was above water and you were, so to speak, “comfortable” — so there was a real premium on being “top guy”, and the other two were (at any time) eager to collaborate to get the position.
And there was no tendency for the two brothers to gang up against my son, because the immediacy of two defeating one was more urgent and compelling than any ideas of teaming by kinship interests, minor differences in strength and skill, etc…