What's The Price Of Doing Business?
Well it looks like it's not going to be populism:
After months of all-out political war with the nation's most powerful business lobby, President Obama appears to be on the verge of launching a dramatic peace offering to the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue.
Two sources familiar with the negotiations tell me that Obama was giving serious consideration to going into the lion's den and delivering a speech at a Dec. 2 jobs summit hosted by Donohue, whose organization just spent tens of millions of dollars trying to bring the President's agenda to a screeching halt by helping to elect more pro-business lawmakers in the midterm election.
"It was my impression they were looking very favorably on the invite," a senior Chamber official told me about the White House, and a senior administration official did not quibble with that account when I checked with the White House on Friday.
"This would show the President will engage people with different views," one senior Democratic strategist told me. "I think it would be a good thing."
In fact, top Democratic strategists tell me senior White House officials like David Axelrod have been working aggressively behind the scenes to help facilitate a chance for Obama to finally bury the hatchet with Donohue and the rest of the business community...
While senior officials like Axelrod and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have publicly tried to downplay any tensions with the business community, I'm told by these Democratic strategists that the administration is privately more concerned than they're letting on about just how politically damaging the image of Obama being anti-business has been.
Images with whom? I'm sure the average voter won't even know about this. This is about money and policy and all that that implies and I don't think the administration is deluded enough to think that these guys won't demand something big from him.
But there are signs that Obama may be able to form an unlikely alliance on some key issues with the Chamber of Commerce, which has a lot of sway with incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and could help each side bridge at least some of their differences on economic matters.
Jen Psaki, White House deputy communications director, told me that a lot of the tension with the Chamber was overblown anyway and she believes they will be able to work together on billions in new infrastructure spending the President is trying to secure, as well as Obama's push to double U.S. exports within five years - an idea that Chamber officials diplomatically note was actually first pushed by Donohue.
Uh huh. Like I said before "think NAFTA," only with social security.
And I don't think Obama is dumb enough not to realize that they will stab him in the back politically again anyway. After all, they did this:
While Donohue supported the stimulus plan as well as the auto bailouts early on in the Obama administration, the cooperation pretty much stopped there. It "went off the rails," in the words of a senior Chamber official, over the President's health care reform.
It's always been known that the Chamber was fighting that plan tooth and nail, but nobody knew just how aggressively until this week, when Bloomberg reported that health insurers gave the Chamber a whopping $86.2 million to battle the plan - a staggering amount.
The Chamber spent tens of millions of dollars more to support Republicans - as well as some conservative Democrats - in the midterm election. Those efforts helped knock the President's party out of power in the House, and weakened his hand in the Senate.
And despite the happy talk now about working together on other issues, let's not forget that the Chamber will be glad to be part of any Republican effort on Capitol Hill to weaken the President's signature health care and Wall Street reform laws.
I don't know about you, but I can't think of even one possible deal between these parties that could truly benefit the Democratic Party or the American people. And I certainly have no faith that the Obama administration is capable of outsmarting them.
So, it's going to take luck, prayer or some kind of serious outside pressure (or all three) to keep this unholy alliance from blowing the place up completely.
Oy. It's time for a drink ...